I really enjoyed this documentary. Rather than try to summarize it, I'd like to address the way that it is different from what has become the sort of standard way of doing historical documentaries since the very deserved success of Ken Burns' early films. And then to reflect, a little, why this is a documentary everyone should see and think about. Until the very end of this movie, we see no talking heads, no people telling us their views about what happened. We hear the voices of the eight people who were interviewed extensively, several of whom, like Andrew Young, knew King well and were even involved with him in the Civil Rights movement. But our visual focus is almost always on newsreel footage - or, on occasion, excerpts from documentary-like movies about the FBI. That creates a very different effect, at least on me, than I experience when I watch Ken Burns documentaries like the one on America's involvement in World War II, *The War*, or the one on baseball. Frankly, I prefer this approach, at least for the telling of this story. My only suggestion, and it is a minor one, is that there are times when the voice speaking changes and is not identified. Since we can't see who is speaking, I would appreciate it if, in a subsequent edition of this documentary - and I'm sure there will be subsequent editions - that be added. The other thing that I would like to be added is an occasional caption to identify some of the individuals we see in the newsreels. There is, for example, a man we see at least twice speaking from a podium outdoors addressing a group on a platform. (He's evidently a white supremacist.) He isn't identified, and I wish he were. The people who made this movie - and they did a fine job - are probably so immersed in this subject that they know all of the individuals we see, but that is not going to be the case for many of us. A few simple captions added to some of the newsreel footage would help. Other than that, I applaud the makers of this documentary and strongly recommend it. It does not pretend to present King as a saint. It does not center on him, his work or his life. Rather. It sets out to show how and why the FBI and its director, J. Edgar Hoover, spent so much time watching him and, finally, trying to destroy him. And that is one very interesting, if sad, story. The shining image that Hoover had for many years in this country has long since been destroyed for various reasons. This might drive one of the nails further in its coffin, but that image is already pretty dead without this movie. But it shows, very well, how our own country, that enshrines freedom of speech in our constitution, has sometimes worked so hard to suppress that freedom for some of our fellow citizens. That is frightening, and we cannot ever be allowed to forget it, or it will keep happening.
Based on newly declassified files, Sam Pollard's resonant film explores the US government's surveillance and harassment of Martin Luther King, Jr.
January 27, 2021