Coming to PBS’s American Experience tomorrow, Tuesday, April 3:
ROADS TO MEMPHIS
American Experience (May 2010)
Retracing the paths that brought Martin Luther King Jr and his killer, James Earl Ray, to Memphis in 1968.
Re-presented just before the 50th anniversary of King’s assassination at Memphis’ Lorraine Motel, Ives’ workmanlike retelling explores the stories of both the fallen civil rights leader and the man who took his life. The film recounts how King traveled to the southern city to support a strike by sanitation workers, and to right an earlier incident there that was marred by violence, part of a larger expansion of his activism to embrace not only racial justice but economic equality as well. His story is ably illustrated by archival footage and the testimony of his close friends and advisors. In contrast, the background on Ray unfortunately is largely limited to cheesy reenactment footage that demonstrates the fugitive’s escape from prison, involvement in the hateful rhetoric of segregationist George Wallace’s presidential campaign, and planning of King’s murder for the hope of a financial reward from some unclear source. While staying true to the PBS’s strands historical focus, Ives’ film nevertheless proves all too topical for those willing to apply its lessons about intolerance to the present day.