Director Choice for ‘MLK Assassination Film’ Raises Concerns

On April 4th, 1968, Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was shot by James Earl Ray, and during the fallout from Dr. King’s death, a sixty-five-day manhunt for his assassin was launched.

This is the basis for Hampton Sides’ bestselling non-fiction book, Hellhound on His Trail: The Electrifying Account of the Largest Manhunt in American History, which is now in the process of being adapted to a film; Hellhound on His Trail. Said film is currently set to be directed by Scott Cooper, who is also writing the script. While Cooper has directed critically acclaimed films such as “Crazy Heart” and “Black Mass”, and the script is based off of a book describing the historical events, some wonder if he is the best choice for this project.

“With so much focus and conversation at the moment about diversity,” says Kevin Jagernauth of The Playlist “and calls for people of color and women to be guardians of their own narratives, announcements like this make you wonder if anybody is actually listening in Hollywood.”

As Jagernauth points out, this isn’t the first time the issue of representing a group on behalf on it has come up.  In the video essay “Pocahontas was a Mistake, and Here’s Why!” (video below) film critic Lindsay Ellis highlights how telling a story on behalf of another group can be extremely detrimental to the finished product, especially when input from that group is ignored. In addition, Ellis further points out that even when the group is heavily consulted with, as Disney did with “Moana”, Disney were still the ones telling the story, not those they consulted.

Representation in the film industry has been an issue since the it’s inception, and one can hope that Hollywood is aware of this and will make the right call on the film about the death of one of America’s most important and beloved icons, one who changed a generation.


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