Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday is observed today. It’s a federal holiday. Like many Americans, it keeps me out of work. It’s not very often that my blog overlaps with something outside of the realm of movies and TV. Occasionally- very rarely- I get an excuse to branch out a little bit as long as I promise not to stray too far. And today, on the King holiday, I have an excuse.
A few years ago when I had first been introduced to foreign films, I stumbled upon a movie called I Am Curious–Yellow. The film is many, many things- part art film, part pure sexual charge, part sociology of 60′s youth revolution, and part sociology of Swedish class systems in the mid-20th century (as I mentioned the other day, when I placed this film in my Criterion Collection Top Ten). Right there in the middle of it is an interview with none other than Martin Luther King about non-violence. Unfortunately, I can’t find a clip of the (very brief) interview that he did for the film. But I can find a transcript of the film. In keeping with the spirit of my blog, but also in the interest of honoring the man, here’s the dialogue from the screenplay. It’s not much, but it’s something:
This was made in March, 1966, when MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., AGE 37,
was in Stockholm with Harry Belafonte to initiate a large Swedish
fundraising campaign for American Negroes. After a speech to students
at Stockholm University, he took the time to answer some questions
Do you have to have a religious belief to take part
in a non-violent movement?
MARTIN LUTHER KING
No, not necessarily.
If you find that a person cannot stand being attacked, what do you do with him? Do you speak to him and explain to him that he cannot be with you any longer?
MARTIN LUTHER KING
Well, we always discourage those who cannot be subjected to attack — the one who would retaliate with violence — not to participate in a demonstration. The rules are very rigid in a non-violent movement and we feel that a person who can’t take it — a person who cannot submit himself to violence if it comes to him and who would retaliate with violence — should not at all participate and so we discourage that person completely.
Lena seems fascinated by King.
I like him. He talks about better things than Palme.
Vilgot grimaces at the childish comment. But it gives him something to think about. In the forthcoming film, he wants to present Lena with three idols: a Russian, an American, and a Swede, to whom Lena turns for imaginary interviews when she is confused and depressed. Yevtushenko could be her Russian idol; Palme, her Swedish; and Martin Luther King, Jr., her American, because he represents the dream of non-violence. Non-violence should be another theme in the film, in contrast to the Swedish class system.