Via Zoom: Director Sam Pollard Revives the History of 'MLK/FBI'

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CHICAGO – Sam Pollard has been a behind-the-scenes film editor/producer for most of his career, best known for his work with Spike Lee. But recently, after sporadic director assignments over the years, he has broken out with two major profile documentaries, one on Sammy Davis Jr. in 2017, and his most recent “MLK/FBI.”

MLK is of course, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (the documentary is releasing on January 15th, 2021, on what would have Dr. King’s 92nd birthday) and the FBI is the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The story is of government overreach in the surveillance of Dr. King, revealing some very human foibles that FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover hoped to use against the civil rights icon and the movement that he led. As in his previous work that included King, “Eyes on the Prize,” Sam Pollard has structured a meticulous history lesson, one of truth and morality.

Director Sam Pollard of ‘MLK/FBI
Photo credit: IFC Films

Pollard has had a long and varied career in the film industry, beginning in the 1970s. He began as an editor of documentaries, getting his first director assignment on the groundbreaking “Eyes on the Prize” series on PBS, the history of the Civil Rights movement orchestrated by Dr. King. In the 1990s, he became the primary editor for Spike Lee, cutting the director’s films including “Mo’ Better Blues” (1990), “Jungle Fever” (1991), “4 Little Girls” (1997) and one part of “When the Levee Broke” (2010, also producer). He also edited the extraordinary documentary about Frank Sinatra, “All or Nothing at All” (2015).

As director, Sam Pollard continued his documentary journey, including for American Experience on PBS (profiles of August Wilson, Zora Neale Hurston, Marvin Gaye and John Wayne/John Ford), “Two Trains Runnin’ (2016), “Sammy Davis Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me” (2017) and the influential doc, “The Talk: Race in America’ (2017), among his 19 credits. As a producer and editor, he has an astounding 48 credits for each.

Patrick McDonald of talked to director Sam Pollard via Zoom, and in Part One the filmmaker talks about “MLK/FBI” from the perspective of Dr. King and J. Edgar Hoover.

In Part Two, the craft of editing is discussed, plus director Pollard’s connection to MLK in his youth.

MLK/FBI” will be available through Video-On-Demand beginning January 15th. Written by Benjamin Hedin and Laura Tomselli. Directed by Sam Pollard. Not Rated. senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Editor, Film Writer

© 2021 Patrick McDonald,

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