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16. MLK/FBI; movie review

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Title : 16. MLK/FBI; movie review
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Cert 15
104 mins
BBFC advice: Contains disturbing images, real violence, references to racism and sexual violence

The more documentaries I watch about American politics the more I realise how little life has changed for African Americans.
Yes, they have more seats at the tables of power than they did in the 1960s but, as has been proven by the Trump presidency, discrimination still shouts loudly in the United States.
Sadly, this will not change until it is recognised that people are just people, irrelevant of skin colour.
During the civil rights movement, white Americans struggled with that concept, believing that Martin Luther King and his acolytes were extremists because they pushed for the equal rights which they took for granted.
While knowledge of FBI surveillance of King isn't a surprise, Sam Goddard's film portrays the shocking extent of it.
Using newly discovered and declassified files and documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, the documentary-makers demonstrate harassment of King and his entourage.
It uses contemporaneous footage with commentary by a handful of experts who explain the motivation of the bureau which was headed by J. Edgar Hoover.
The latter appeared to be in fear of a collaboration between the civil rights movement and American communists.
Much of Pollard's film is spent analysing the relationship/mistrust between King and Hoover.
It presents Hoover as a cross between envious of King's popularity and furious because he believed he was offering communists a root to power.
Thus, he and his team set out to discredit him in whichever way they could.
It is presented as a surprise that King had an active sex life outside of his marriage (even though that has been well-publicised) but that turned to astonishment at further allegations of salacious if not criminal behaviour.
So, should the FBI have tapped his phone and bugged his hotel rooms and should they have been writing reports about his sexual peccadillos?
And should MLK have been preaching family values in church while going in the opposite direction in his private life?
Goddard's film which goes over much old ground before it asks those new fundamental questions.

Reasons to watch: Draws many important elements of the King story together
Reasons to avoid: Goes over quite a lot of well-worn ground

Laughs: None
Jumps: None
Vomit: None
Nudity: None
Overall rating: 7.5/10

Did you know? 
The civil rights leader was born Michael King Jr. on January 15, 1929. In 1934, however, his father, a pastor at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, travelled to Germany and became inspired by the Protestant Reformation leader Martin Luther. As a result, King Sr. changed his own name as well as that of his five-year-old son.

The final word. Sam Pollard: “King was a much more complex human being than people want to remember like all of us are. That was what we wanted to present. Here was a man who, like many of us, had a multi-tasking existence. He’s not just the leader of the Civil Rights movement but he’s a family man with a wife and four kids. He’s also a man dealing with his own personal, whatever, peculiarities…he had to know he was being constantly surveilled by the FBI.”  Business Doc Europe

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