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Review: 'The Witness: From the Balcony of Room 306'

February 17, 2009 |  5:09 pm


When new President Barack Obama stepped outside his well-armored SUV on Inauguration Day to walk awhile down a crowd-lined street, I can't have been the only one watching to have held his breath.

For reasons both superficial and deep, orchestrated and inevitable, it was easy to see Obama's own March on Washington as a fulfillment of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963. But King made another speech the night before he died, five years later, in Memphis, Tenn., a speech full of hope and death that provides the climax of -- though not the culmination to -- “The Witness: From the Balcony of Room 306,” a powerful, Oscar-nominated short film premiering tonight on HBO.

The film is focused mainly on the memories of Memphis preacher Samuel “Billy” Kyles, who, along with the late Rev. Ralph Abernathy, spent King's last hour with him and who was the only other person on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel when King was shot.

Read more here.

(Photo courtesy HBO)