MLK Jr Day Movie List

Posted by Billyjam, January 19, 2015 10:30am | Post a Comment

A good thing to do any day, but particularly appropriate MLK Jr. Day, is to view some Martin Luther King, Jr. and cicil rights related films and documentaries. There are many to recommend, beginning with Selma, which is the Ava DuVernay-directed dramatization of the Selma to Montgomery, Alabama voting rights marches of 1965 that were led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Starring in an incredibly accurate performance of King, British actor David Oyelowo (pictured above) was famously snubbed by the Oscars in their recent 2015 nominations. Selma can be viewed in movie theaters today at no cost for students all over the Bay Area as well in other cities such as New Orleans, St. Louis, Baltimore, and Nashville. The free screenings, which have actually been taking place over the weekend at theaters including 11 in the Bay Area, are thanks to a fundraising drive by a nationwide movement called “Selma for Students.” This fundraising group believes that students (particularly African American) might not otherwise be fully informed about this moment in history captured in Selma and its parallels to the challenges that they face today. Bay Area theaters include Grand Lake Oakland, AMC Bay Street Emeryville, AMC Van Ness San Francisco, Century Hilltop Richmond, and Cinemark Daly City. Students just need to bring some form of ID to the theater in the cities participating in the program.


Freedom On My Mind (1994) trailer

In compiling this list, I discovered that there have been so few films about King outside of documentaries. Hence, this list is as much about the Civil Rights Movement that King was an integral part of as it is about MLK personally. Speaking of which, first up is Freedom On My Mind (trailer above), which is the tirelessly researched, moving documentary on the Civil Rights Movement that, like the aforementioned Selma For Students movement, is another film that students (and everyone for that matter) really need to see.

Unlike Selma this 1994 Sundance award-winning documentary, which meticulously reconstructs the story of the Mississippi freedom movement and the voter registration drives of five decades ago, did get an Academy Award nomination. Similarly, so did King: A Filmed Record... Montgomery to Memphis two decades earlier. With narrators including Harry Belafonte and James Earl Jones, this documentary (shown in theaters as a "one-time-only" event back in 1970 upon its release) neatly compiles old newsreels and other primary film and television sources to trace the period in MLK's life from the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955 through his assassination in 1968.

Then there's the little seen Alpha Man: The Brotherhood of MLKwhich is a half hour television documentary about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s fraternity days as a member of Alpha Phi Alpha that was shown on BET four years ago. Among the non-documentary films related to King and the civil rights movement he spearheaded are the Alan Parker-directed 1998 Mississippi Burning about the investigation of the murder of civil rights activists in the South during the 1960s (stars Willem Dafoe and Gene Hackman); the Spike Lee-directed Malcolm X  with Denzel Washington as the controversial other leader of the Civil Rights Movement who shared King's goal but not all his philosophies; the 1967 Sidney Poitier classic Guess Who's Coming To Dinner with Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, which perfectly captures black/white relations in America in that decade of change; and finally the 1982 film Gandhi. Directed by Richard Attenborough, Gandhi is important MLK-related viewing since Martin Luther King, Jr. drew heavy inspiration from the teachings and practices of Mahatma Gandhi's nonviolent protests. 

Of course there are many more films that could be added to this list but these are a good starting point.

Gandhi (1982) trailer

Relevant Tags

Mlk Films (1), Selma Montgomery (2), Dr. Martin Luther King Jr (3), Mlk Day 2015 Bay Area (2), Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2015 (1), Free Screenings Of Selma For Students (1)