Documentary Review: How Martin Luther King Jr. Changed the World
How Martin Luther King Jr. Changed the World is a biographical documentary written and directed by Thomas Friedman and boldly narrated by Arthur Berghardt. The documentary features Martin Luther King Jr’s most pronounced accomplishments, born in Atalanta, Georgia. Martin Luther King Jr.’s achievement is presented as the most formidable criticism of Racial violence against minorities in America. How his struggle for civil liberties is presented is perhaps the most moving and controversial of all. King takes on a passivist approach to the violent American regimes advocating for non-violent responses to even some of the most atrocious attacks on people’s rights. The documentary outlines the continuous struggles that were meted on African Americans and their relentless spirit and perseverance to overcome all these challenges. Among other things, the media’s role is highlighted as a fundamental tool in manifesting the struggle to the American people. But most of all, Martin Luther King Jr.’s approach to violence is perhaps the most virtuous and exalted approach to struggle and racial violence. Overall, the documentary takes on King’s achievements and struggles in a bid to present the ever-present racial differences that have defined American politics through and chartered unique racial realities marred with protests and conflict.
Friedman identifies King as an avid rhetorician, academically accomplished, and a firm proponent of Mahatma Gandhi. These are some of the critical aspects that manifested throughout his life and compelled him to become the voice of the voiceless. King’s many speeches are provided as proof of his mastery in public speaking. Born and raised to a clergyman family, King was compelled to become bold in how he addressed people from a young age. The film critically focuses on some of King’s important speeches that effectively manipulated the audience to see his perspective and even follow his wishes. Vail identifies that what makes King’s speech very effective is his ability to employ the theoretical concepts of voice merging, dynamic spectacle and the prophetic voice. In another explanation, researchers identify two key rhetorical tools that King applied to create an effective message. Morgan identifies that King applied repetition and the rule of three, where he continually repeated a similar phrase at the start of a paragraph in his speech. Morgan identifies that the goal of these techniques is to providence clear emphasis and allow the rhetorician to bear the weight of the words and make them affirmative, simple yet very evocative to conjure an emotional response and vividness from a speaker’s audience. As a clergyman, this is something that King had learned and mastered for a long time, which consequently allowed in to reach his audience effectively.
King’s movement gained fame and support from a large section of the American public due to his constant insistence on non-violence amid the police’s violent response. The term non-violence is one of the most repeated phrases in the documentary. In most cases, it is juxtaposed with acts of violence meted upon King, making King’s insistence on nonviolence even more peculiar when all avenues to retaliate were open for him and his followers. The documentary heavily focuses on images from famous protests in the 1950s and 1960s to provide context to King’s plan. They provide a clear path from where King gained the ideology- Mahatma Gandhi. King is identified to follow Gandhi’s passive resistance message, exclaiming that it would eventually be the most effective tool for opposition to discrimination for the communities of color and various civil activists within the USA. Borghini identifies that violence can sometimes be justified as a self-defense tool or when one’s life is frightened or attacked. King did not believe in violence even when he was attacked, stabbed, and beaten for proposing non-violent protests. King’s pacifist approach to protest was odd and, in most cases, very confusing. It allowed him to gain support from many and ultimately lose support from the American public when he was compelled to attack America’s stance in Vietnam.
Friedman presents the media’s role as one of the essential tools in the US’s struggle for equality. The media was a critical avenue where most people got to interact and observe the irrationality of southern states to African American justified constitutional claims. The media was a key tool used to define various realities on the ground relative to police and southern state actions. The social construction of a problem is generally achieved through the public discourse of the problem. Simmons and Lawrence argue that the social construction of a problem in the west has always been beneficial to the problem’s owner rather than its actual reality. As such, the media’s capacity to share the problem from the oppressed’s perspective instead of state officials’ perspective only worked to present America to King’s social cause. Through the media, America witnessed the violent response of police and the racist attitudes prevailing in Alabama, bringing more criticism to the south and more pressure for civil rights and equality.
The biographical documentary How Martin Luther King Jr. Changed the World is written and directed by Thomas Friedman, tries to give modern viewers a look into one of the most accomplished American leaders- Martin Luther King Jr. It identifies his ideologies, struggles, and overall accomplishment. Some of his most recognized accomplishments include making the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 a reality. His struggle and unique approach to protest allowed him to create massive pressure on governments and local authorities that, in the end, provided the American people more liberties and freedom. The world recognized him for advocating for peace and awarded a Nobel peace prize. This key achievement continues to advocate for his legacy as an American statesman.
Bhorghini, Andrea. “When Is Violence Justifiable?”. Thoughtco, 2019, https://www.thoughtco.com/can-violence-be-just-2670681#:~:text=A%20State%20may%20be%20justified,some%20legal%20or%20institutional%20violence. Accessed 26 Feb 2021.
Morgan, Nick. “Martin Luther King’s Rhetorical Genius”. Forbes, 2015, https://www.forbes.com/sites/nickmorgan/2015/02/12/martin-luther-kings-rhetorical-genius/?sh=7028367f5257. Accessed 26 Feb 2021.
Simmons, H. P., Lawrence, R. G.. The politics of force: Media and the construction of police brutality. Contemporary Sociology, 30(5), 520.2001. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.2307/3089363
Vail, Mark. “The ‘Integrative’ Rhetoric Of Martin Luther King Jr.’S ‘I Have A Dream’ Speech”. Rhetoric Public Affairs, vol 9, no. 1, 2006, pp. 51-78. Project Muse, doi:10.1353/rap.2006.0032.