‘MLK/FBI’ Trailer: Sam Pollard’s Urgent Portrait of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Punishing FBI Surveillance

The lauded filmmaker uses newly declassified documents to expose J. Edgar Hoover's cruel campaign against the civil rights icon.
IFC Films

IFC has released the first official trailer for “MLK/FBI,” an urgent and timely documentary detailing the FBI’s targeted surveillance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. under the direction of J. Edgar Hoover, the extent of which was revealed in a slew of recently declassified documents. The film arrives courtesy of filmmaker Sam Pollard, director/producer of documentaries “Mr. Soul!” and “Sammy Davis, Jr.: I Gotta Be Me” who got his start editing Spike Lee joints like “Jungle Fever” and “Mo’ Better Blues.” “MLK/FBI” world premiered at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival and went on to play NYFF. IFC Films will release the film early next year.

Here’s IFC’s official synopsis: “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is remembered today as an American hero: a bridge-builder, a shrewd political tactician, and a moral leader. Yet throughout his history-altering political career, he was often treated by U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies like an enemy of the state. In this virtuosic documentary, award-winning editor and director Sam Pollard lays out a detailed account of the FBI surveillance that dogged King’s activism throughout the ’50s and ’60s, fueled by the racist and red-baiting paranoia of J. Edgar Hoover. In crafting a rich archival tapestry, featuring some revelatory restored footage of King, Pollard urges us to remember that true American progress is always hard-won.”

In his positive review of the film out of TIFF, IndieWire’s Eric Kohn compared Pollard’s use of archival footage to “The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975.” He writes: ” Sam Pollard’s sobering and essential documentary recounts the government’s efforts to blackmail, discredit, and otherwise disempower Martin Luther King, Jr. during the height of the Civil Rights movement, by recording his marital infidelities and wielding them like a blunt weapon. … Pollard has constructed an absorbing tale of Black activism challenged by authorities and built it almost entirely out of the materials of the time, with interviews overlaid as voiceover.”

Beverly Gage, David J. Garrow, Andrew Young, Donna Murch, James Comey, Clarence Jones, Charles Knox, and Marc Perrusquia appear in the film. IFC Films will release “MLK/FBI” on January 15, 2021. Check out the riveting official trailer for this essential work below:

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