Last Friday 15, director Sam Pollard's new documentary MLK/FBI was released in limited theatres and video on demand. In line with Martin Luther King day, the director's archive documentary details the civil rights pioneers narrative from a new lens: as a public enemy on a mission to disrupt the segregated status quo.
Pollard's lens uses the FBI's pursuit of King to detail a different side of the story, one that painted King's social justice mission as anti-American propaganda - through former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover's campaign. Hoover sought to discredit King via a number of tactics involving propaganda around his private life, extramarital affairs, and abetting in sexual assault to villainise the 20th century's most prolific civil rights leaders to date.
Said to represent the “darkest part of the bureau’s history” in the film by former FBI director James Comey, MLK/FBI exposes the FBI's mission - namely Hoover's, who painted King as the “world’s most notorious liar” - to expose and discredit King through governmental harassment, dirt digging and wire tapping, as uncovered in newly declassified government documents. Including a number of voiceover interviews by those privy to the information, the documentary takes focus on archival footage, some of which could be eerily compared to footage of the Black Lives Matter protests taking place in America since May 2020.
With all that has happened in the past year in America paired with the recent riots at the Capitol, it's hard to ignore the fact that these moments are bound up with America's history as a colonised country. "Look at the Black Lives Matter demonstrations in the summer. Look at the show of force that was brought out against them. Look at the lack of force [earlier this month] in Washington, D.C. You see the difference. You see the thinking of America. Black people are considered a threat. People of colour are considered a threat," Pollard said in a recent interview with Vulture.
"White people who physically — violently — invade the capitol, the police don’t see them as a threat. I watched those images and was disgusted. I think an audience can look at this show, at the tumultuous history of the ‘60s in America, and take a lesson from what we saw last week. In some ways, this kind of intensity and craziness is part and parcel of who America is. It’s been there for a long time and anybody who doesn’t understand that doesn’t understand the history of America. If America is ever going to change, we’ve got to come to grips with our past to deal with our present," he says.