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King in the Wilderness

Documentary Film Review
By: Angela Redding  
Los Angeles, CA, (The Hollywood Times) 3/21/2018–“Cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’ Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’ Vanity asks the question, ‘Is it popular?’ But conscience asks the question, ‘Is it right?’ And there comes a time when we must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because it is right.” -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Nov 1967) Photo Credit: Photoshot/ TopFoto/The Image Works /Courtesy of HBO

Debuting two days before the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death, exclusively on HBO, the original film, King in the Wilderness.
Non-fiction stories can be just as powerful, thought provoking, and/or emotional as fictional stories.
King in the Wilderness is an informative, powerful and thought provoking documentary on the last three years of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The film focuses on the events which occurred in his life prior to his assassination in Memphis, TN, April 4, 1968.
Director Peter Kunhardt quotes Dr. King, above, in hopes that the film will be a reminder of what leadership looks like at its best.
Dr. King’s, “I Have a Dream” speech, his leadership during the bus boycotts, sit-ins, and Selma to Montgomery marches are well known and often cited by many when honoring him. King in the Wilderness takes viewers on a three year insightful journey of Dr. King’s life from 1965-1968.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (right)being shoved back by Mississippi patrolmen during the 220 mile “March Against Fear” from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi (June 8, 1966).
Photo Credit: Underwood Archives/The Image Works / Courtesy of HBO

Archival footage is paired with first-hand accounts to tell an intriguing and thought provoking story by those who knew him personally and worked closely with him. Those interviewed give viewers of the film an intimate look at Martin Luther King, Jr., the man, and not just the historic figure.
Many times with those who accomplish great things, we idolize them, the individual – we put them on a pedestal focusing on the greatness of the deeds and forgetting that behind the deeds of greatness is a person with faults and shortcomings like ourselves.
King in the Wilderness does not minimize the great changes brought about by the civil rights leader, but it gives us insight into how life, itself, touched Dr. King.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (left) and Stokely Carmichael (right) in Jackson, MS end of Meredith March (Photo Bob Fitch, Stanford Univ. Libraries Courtesy of HBO

One of the thought provoking scenes in the film for me was a news footage shot of Dr. King and Stokely Carmichael leading a march with a reporter between them questioning their methods of protest. Carmichael states, in so many words, that he is all for violence as a means to get what he believes is right. The reporter turns to King and asks if he is in agreement. Dr. King stands his ground and states he does not agree with violence as a form of protest and that nonviolence is still his position on how to bring about change.
During the latter years of his life, those who had a cause they believed in, sought out Dr. King for help in promoting their cause in an effort to bring about change. His nonviolent stance did not sit well with all, but he would not deviate from his belief of legal and nonviolent methods of resistance even in regards to the Vietnam War. Dr. King spoke against the war in Vietnam and his outspokenness about the war was viewed as irresponsible by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Coretta Scott King (center) kisses her husband Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (right) at an Alabama airport. Harry Belafonte (back right) and comedian Nipsey Russell (back left) performed at the concert “Stars for Freedom” at the end of the march. (1963). Photo Credit: Ivan Massar/ Take Stock/The Image Works / Courtesy of HBO

This documentary will hold your interest and bring to light insightful information about Dr. King’s life that is often times not seen.
As the director, Kunhardt has selected the perspective he wants viewers to see of King’s life and it is done quite effectively. King in the Wilderness is an informative look at the last three years of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and a must see for historians and anyone interested in taking a closer look at his life to gain a deeper understanding of the civil rights movement leader and the man.
Scale of 1-5:
4 – Documentary Film: King in the Wilderness
Cast: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Clifford Alexander, Joan Baez, Harry Belafonte, Joseph Califano, Xernona Clayton, Dorothy Cotton, Marian Wright Edelman, Richard Fernandez, Mary Lou Finley, Tom Houck, Jesse Jackson, Clarence Jones, Bernard Lafayette, John Lewis, Sam Massell, Diane Nash, Cleveland Sellers, Andrew Young, CT Vivian
Director: Peter Kunhardt
Producers: George Kunhardt, Teddy Kunhardt
Writer: Chris Chuang
Editors: Maya Mumma, Steven J. Golliday
Cinematographer: Clair Popkin
Executive Producers/Interviewers: Taylor Branch, Trey Ellis
Interviews:
Clifford Alexander, Joan Baez, Harry Belafonte, Joseph Califano, Xernona Clayton, Dorothy Cotton, Marian Wright Edelman, Richard Fernandez, Mary Lou Finley, Tom Houck, Jesse Jackson, Clarence Jones, Bernard Lafayette, John Lewis, Sam Massell, Diane Nash, Cleveland Sellers, Andrew Young, CT Vivian
HBO Documentary Films. Running time: 111 minutes. Some offensive language. Premiering on HBO, Monday, April 2, 2018, 8:00-10:00 p.m. ET/PT.