TIFF20: MLK/FBI

In the 1960s, Hoover and the FBI surveilled Martin Luther King Jr hoping to expose secrets to humiliate him publicly and weaken his authority.

That intelligence has just now been declassified, and Sam Pollard’s is the first film to confront their surveillance and harassment of the man they labelled “the most dangerous negro in America.”

With interviews from Andrew Yong, Clarence Jones, James Comey, and more, the documentary is more factual than entertaining but it does invite you to wonder about the surveillance tapes themselves, due to be unsealed in 2027, and how they may affect a great man’s legacy.

Nothing altogether shocking is revealed in the documentary, but we do get a fuller picture of the complexity of the emotional toll on King knowing the FBI was threatening to discredit him. We also get a staggering sense of just how many resources were devoted to suppressing a single dissent who advocated for nothing but peaceful protest. Not only that, Pollard navigates the government’s continued targeting of not just King but other Black activists as well. Their failure to provide King with adequate protection seems, in context, to not only be egregiously neglectful but a strategic and convenient choice.

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