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STUDIO: A&E Home Video
RATED: Not rated
RUNNING TIME: 94 minutes
Voices of Civil Rights documentary
MLK. Nuff said.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Tom Brokaw, Bill Clinton, Bono, Condoleezza Rice, Forest Whitaker, Chuck D, Harry Belafonte, Martin Luther King III, many others.
King is a documentary special hosted by Tom Brokaw about the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It features an in-depth look at his upbringing, his history and the sacrifices he made – including the ultimate one – to better the lives of Americans in the most turbulent decade of the 20th Century. Featuring contributions by President Bill Clinton, Bono, Harry Belafonte, Martin Luther King III and a host of others, King is a stirring look at one of the greatest Americans to ever live.
It was kind of a no-brainer that King was going to be a good documentary. After all, it was produced by a TV station – The History Channel – that’s completely dedicated to historical programming; it’s hosted by the most esteemed journalist in the country this side of Cronkite; and it’s about one of the greatest historical figures this country has ever produced. Throw in a concise telling of the man’s life with plenty of archival footage, a tightly-written narrative and testimony from people who were in Dr. King’s innermost circles and you’ve got a pretty-much guaranteed formula for success.
So naturally, that’s exactly what King delivers: an engaging retrospective of not only the public figure that we’ve come to know, but also the man himself as told by the people who knew him best: his friends and family. King covers the Reverend’s entire life, hitting not only the highlights, but also delving a little deeper into some of the key events in his life like the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Selma March, the I Have a Dream speech, the Birmingham church bombing that killed four little girls, the three Mississippi volunteers that were murdered while trying to enact Black voter registration and some of his escapades in the North such as living in a Chicago slum to protest unfair housing practices.
There’s plenty of interview footage with Dr. King himself and also in-depth testimonials from historical and modern figures who knew him and were inspired by him. There’s also a surprise here and there in that I know quite a bit about Dr. King’s life, but I never knew he was stabbed once and almost died, nor that he was a good pool player and used that as another avenue to engage in dialogue with people he might not otherwise have had the chance to speak with. I also didn’t know that Condoleezza Rice was a former kindergarten classmate of one of the four girls killed in that Birmingham church bombing.
If there’s one thing that may have been missing from this documentary, however, is that I would have like that Dr. King’s alleged philandering not be glossed over as much. The fact that he was perhaps unfaithful doesn’t diminish his legacy in my mind, and the documentary does touch upon it, but it’s actually more of a footnote, buried in a chapter about J. Edgar Hoover’s constant hounding of King. Nevertheless, at 94 minutes, the doc gives more than a cursory, yet free-flowing narrative of this remarkable American.
King is primarily archival footage, with some sit down interviews between Brokaw and his subjects interspersed, so the quality of the video varies depending on what you’re looking at. There’s a special feature: Voices of Civil Rights, a 45-minute documentary about people who lived through the civil rights movement and the stories they have to tell, hosted by Mekhi Phifer.