One of the best documentaries of 2020 happens to be about a time in our nation’s history that very few want to revisit. Sam Pollard’s ‘MLK/FBI’ is a gripping look at how corruption clouded government officials’ judgment when clear minds were desperately needed. The documentary focuses on how the FBI wiretapped Dr. King for years, even as it seemed the government was willing to help achieve his goal of equal rights. The documentary is told entirely through archival footage and interviews. Pollard’s work clearly shows the world that even when some have the best intentions that if a few have enough say in the matter that it can sway anything. President Johnson had every intention of living up to his promise of continuing the work of President Kennedy for equal rights. Still, the FBI director J. Edgar Hoover had just enough sway to derail that progress.
The documentary’s strength is how clear its message is and how perfectly edited the film is. I’m not sure there’s been a better-edited documentary this year. Not only does it highlight the shortcomings of our past but shines a light on our present and the desperate need for reform.
Pollard’s focus isn’t so much on playing private conversations between King and his inner-circle but on how we should process these moments collectively from a historical and societal perspective. The film left me uneasy due to so many connections between our past and our world’s current state. Hopefully, that feeling will motivate individuals to heed the lessons taught in MLK/FBI.