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Documentary Review: ‘I Am MLK Jr.’

Documentary Review: ‘I Am MLK Jr.’

February 27, 2023

I Am MLK Jr., directed by John Barbisan and Michael Hamilton, is the kind of documentary that moves a person in ways that are hard to articulate in one single blog post. This film is a celebration of the iconic Civil Rights leader and is impressive in scope. It utilizes layered storytelling with historic videos, audio recordings, photographs, and deeply personal interviews.

While presented as a film, the DVD does not have a menu or a “skip to scene” option—an intentional creative choice that is incredibly unique to this piece. And it just feels right. As you dive into the story of Dr. King’s life, you get the sense that I Am MLK Jr. is a work that needs to be seen in its entirety, and in the intended order.

Each piece of the documentary is carefully curated, but perhaps the most powerful inclusion is the wide range of featured interviews: intimate accounts from MLK’s closest friends and fellow Civil Rights activists. These interviews were filmed on location in the historic churches where King preached, with gospel music interspersed, bringing the viewer deep into the experience.

As with all well-done pieces about Martin Luther King Jr., the documentary does not shy away from the brutal realities that came with the stand that he took—but they are tempered with hope. Despite the daily death threats, and the beatings King and his followers received at peaceful demonstrations, his actions continued to be rooted in love: “...[I]t wasn’t about fighting; it was about lifting.”

Listen. Learn. Remember.

Find more Black History Month books, movies, and other resources from the Library at mymcpl.org/BlackHistory.

Lisa P.
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