Great Films to Recall Dr. Martin Luther King’s Vision

Among the 130 reviews of films dealing with domestic racism on this site are the seven below in which Dr. Martin Luther King figures prominently. The titles include a link that will take you to the full review.

KING

Running time: 4 hours 31 min.
Abby Mann, a good friend of Dr. King, directed and produced this 1978 CBS mini-series. It still is the most complete docudrama of the man’s life, beginning with his courting of Coretta Scott, his pastoral leadership in Montgomery and subsequent national career, including his strong, the latter often forgotten by politicians paying him lip service when his “I Have a Dream” speech is eulogized. A great cast includes  Paul Winfield, Cicely Tyson, and Ossie Davis as, respectively, Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King, and Martin Luther King, Sr, and as themselves, Tony Bennett, also a good friend of the Kings, who plays himself, as does former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark and former Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson. Even members of King’s own family appear briefly—Daughters Yolanda as Rosa Parks and Bernice King as a student; also sons Dexter and MLK III and niece Bernice King.

BOYCOTT 

Running time: 112 .
 This HBO dramatization of the Montgomery Bus Boycott features Jeffrey Wright as Dr. King, Carmen Ejogo as Coretta King, Terrence Howard as Ralph Abernathy, Iris Little-Thomas as  Rosa Parks, and  CCH Pounder as activist JoAnn Robinson.

THE LONG WALK HOME

Running time: 1 hour 35 min.
Set in Montgomery during the historic bus boycott, this under-appreciated film features two great performances, Whoopi Goldberg as a housekeeper at the home of Sissy Spacek.  Focusing on how the black Carters and the white Thompson are affected by the Boycott, we never see Dr. King, but just hear his voice as he speaks at the church rallies the Carter family attends each night.

SELMA

Running time 2 hours 8 min.
I love Ava DuVarnay’s monumental film because, though it focuses on the famous March, it provides the context for understanding its significance. And it does not dodge the flaws of the famous leader. David Oyelowo and Carmen Ejogo (the second time she plays Coretta) as the couple head a talented cast that includes virtually every Civil Rights activist ever associated with Dr. King.

SELMA, LORD, SELMA

Running time: 1 hour 34 min.
The Selma events are seen thru eyes of a young girl, thus making this a good film to watch with children. Clifton Powell plays Dr. King, and Mackenzie Astin portrays Jonathan Daniels, the   Northern white minister murdered by the Klan. Dr. King’s daughter Yolander again makes an appearance, this time playing a school teacher.

The VERNON JOHNS STORY: Road to Freedom

Running time: 1 hour 40 min.
Starring the great James Earl Jones, this is the  fascinating story of the radical pastor at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church  who was kicked out  just before  Dr. King came because he was too brash and bold. You’ll love the ending as the deacons introduce the new pastor who will not rock the boat.

WE SHALL NOT BE MOVED

Running time: 1 hour 30 min.
This Emmy Award winning documentary on the C-R Movement can be found by going to the Journal section of this site and clicking onto the Jan/Feb. 2013 issue. The page and a half review, like the film, covers the entire C-R Movement, but much of it dwells on Dr. King.
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