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HBO's Martin Luther King Jr. Film Reveals His 'Dark And Dangerous' Final Years

HBO's Martin Luther King Jr. Film Reveals His 'Dark And Dangerous' Final Years

The world will get an intimate look into the final years of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life as the anniversary of his death approaches next month.

HBO on Wednesday unveiled the trailer to its documentary “King in the Wilderness,” set to premiere April 2, two days ahead of the 50th anniversary of the civil rights leader’s assassination. Emmy winner Peter Kundhart directed the film.

“King in the Wilderness,” which was screened at the Sundance Film Festival in January, reveals the “dark and dangerous period in the long struggle for equality,” HBO’s press statement to USA Today read.

“King himself described it as a time when his dream for America turned into a nightmare,” HBO said.

That “nightmare” includes the 18 months before King was fatally shot in Memphis, according to reviews of the documentary: the tensions between King and the leaders of the Black Power movement, the group’s resistance to his approach of nonviolence, and the backlash from President Lyndon B. Johnson when King condemned the Vietnam War.


The Hollywood Reporter’s chief theater critic, David Rooney, called the documentary “a thoughtful examination” and an “engrossing tribute to a complex legacy.”

“The documentary taps into a regrettably still relevant debate as America backslides in the wake of last year’s Charlottesville protest, with white supremacist fringe groups newly emboldened in the Trump era,” Rooney wrote in January.

“As such, the film’s message remains timely, shaped by the voices and vivid recollections of King’s intimate associates in the struggle for equality.”

In an interview with The Root, Trey Ellis, the producer of the documentary, said the film will give viewers a look into a very different civil rights leader who was dealing with a different world.

“Everything you thought you knew about Martin Luther King Jr. is wrong,” Ellis told the black culture and news site.

“Everything is wrong,” he added. “Thinking that he was safe when he was dangerous, or he was calm when he was full [of] fire. We took everything we knew and turned it on its head.”