King in the Wilderness chronicles the final chapters of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life, revealing a conflicted leader who faced an onslaught of criticism from both sides of the political spectrum. While the Black Power movement saw his nonviolence as weakness, and President Lyndon B. Johnson saw his anti-Vietnam War speeches as irresponsible, Dr. King’s unyielding belief in peaceful protest became a testing point for a nation on the brink of chaos. Dr. King’s leadership during the bus boycotts, the sit-ins and the historic Selma to Montgomery marches is now legendary, but much of what happened afterward – during the last three years of his life – is rarely discussed. It’s a time when Dr. King said his dream “turned into a nightmare.” From the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 to his assassination in 1968, King remained unshakably committed to nonviolence in the face of an increasingly unstable country. The documentary debuted at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival and is directed by Peter Kunhardt (HBO’s Emmy-winning Jim: The James Foley Story). Drawing on conversations with those who knew Dr. King well, including many fellow members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), King in the Wilderness reveals stirring new perspectives on Dr. King’s character, his radical doctrine of nonviolence and his internal philosophical struggles prior to his assassination in 1968. The documentary also features interviews with Andrew Young and Jesse Jackson, archival footage, behind-the-scenes video of Dr. King’s private moments, intimate archival photographs and phone conversations recorded by President Johnson, who were both ally and adversary in King’s fight for civil rights. Director Peter Kunhardt talks about his moving, insightful and illuminating film about an extraordinary human being.
“It veers from the very public to the deeply personal, including heart-wrenching scenes of King’s father collapsing with grief over his son’s coffin.” – Jocelyn Noveck, Associated Press
“The movie humanizes King, in occasionally startling ways.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety
“The film’s message remains timely, shaped by the voices and vivid recollections of King’s intimate associates in the struggle for equality.” – David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter
“Employs a simple and straightforward method to extraordinary effect.” – Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times