The Unfocused Yet Riveting “MLK/FBI” Investigates A Dark Chapter In Law Enforcement History ★★★½

GOOD Morning Wilton‘s movie reviewer, Sebastian Hunt, is a senior at Wilton High School who loves film and television and hopes to become a filmmaker himself one day. He’s already gotten a jump start on that, producing his own screenplays and planning on submitting his work to film festivals. You can learn more about Sebastian on GMW‘s “Our Team” page. 

Sam Pollard’s 104-minute documentary MLK/FBI (available via rental on Amazon Prime) is frequently gripping and highly educational, but will undeniably leave one yearning for either a longer runtime or a more streamlined non-fiction narrative.

Rarely relying on dramatizations, MLK/FBI mostly depends on archival footage and photos in order to articulate its messages. Pollard’s stylistic command is easily MLK/FBI’s greatest strength. Even in the film’s weaker moments, it’s hard not to be spellbound by Pollard’s remarkably inspired interspersion of historical videos, documents and photographs.

The present-day interviews incorporated into MLK/FBI largely arrive in the form of voiceovers. This approach complements Pollard’s inventive direction; the viewer is allowed to become fully immersed in the 1960s-era civil rights landscape. If nothing else, MLK/FBI cements Pollard as a great visual documentarian and I cannot wait to see which project he lends his ocular talents to next.

Pollard’s obvious desire to create the definitive documentary about Martin Luther King Jr. and the FBI extend beyond his aesthetic efforts, however. MLK/FBI attempts to cover every iota of its twin titular subjects, consequently leading to a product that feels intensely jumbled and ultimately abbreviated. There’s about two or three films worth of content trapped in MLK/FBI, which I would have rather seen more thoroughly explored in separate documentaries.

Despite its flaws, however, it is hard to deny the relevance and importance of MLK/FBI’s subject matter. It’s not a perfect film, but it is an engaging one that achieves much of its power via visual resonance. As the MLK Day holiday comes and goes this year, I recommend readers watch Sam Pollard’s documentary, if only to better understand an often whitewashed and under-taught chapter of the American civil rights era.

MLK/FBI” is likely suitable for children of a middle school age and older.