DOXA 2012: King—A Filmed Record; Montgomery to Memphis is an expansive look at a civil-rights legend
King—A Filmed Record; Montgomery to Memphis (USA)
This celluloid monument earns every minute of its three-hour running time, and not just because it’s focused on the civil-rights movement, one of the turning points of the 20th century. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words need that kind of room to work their full magic, building minute upon minute, point upon moral point, to songlike peaks that many of us know only as sound bites.
King—A Filmed Record; Montgomery to Memphis features many of these full-length speeches, alongside news reports and interview footage of King’s exhausting 13-year term at the head of an era-defining campaign. First released in American theatres in 1970, less than two years after his assassination, the film contains no narration, no heads talking after the fact.
Aside from occasional set pieces in which stars such as Harry Belafonte and Paul Newman recite poetry by Langston Hughes and speeches by Abraham Lincoln, it simply joins clip to clip in chronological order, avoiding all sentiment and bringing the viewer face to face with King’s intensely spiritual commitment to justice, and with the violent forces closing in on him.
The current crop of U.S. leaders who smugly drop Jesus’s name could learn many things here, but they’d have to start all over again from scratch.
DOXA presents King—A Filmed Record; Montgomery to Memphis on May 6 at 11 a.m. at Pacific Cinémathèque.
Watch a clip from King—A Filmed Record; Montgomery to Memphis.