WW Film of the Week: The Best of Enemies

By James M. Wall

A reader suggested a film for reflection as racial tensions rise in the present moment.

I had earlier written the following review.


The Best of Enemies


Based on a true series of events in Durham, North Carolina, “The Best of Enemies” centers around a 1971 two-week meeting of citizens on the subject of school integration.

The town set up a study meeting that brought together members of the black and white communities. Its two co-chairs were Ann Atwater (Taraji P. Henson), a local Civil Rights activist, and Claiborne Paul “C.P.” Ellis (Sam Rockwell), the head of the Durham chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.

The reason the meeting — called a “charrette” — is organized is because a local judge knew he could not get away with issuing a ruling against integration, which had been the law of the land since 1954. Instead, the city invites Bill Riddick (Babou Ceesay), a black community organizer from Raleigh who has orchestrated “charrettes” in various places.

A “charrette” is not a legal proceeding. It is an example of “democracy in action,” a way for a city to take its own temperature on a hot-button issue. Henson and Rockwell are superb in their depiction of two angry leaders who have their own agendas.

The KKK involvement in local politics through intimidation and threats of violence, was strong in 1951. It is less prominent today. Be aware, however, that this film is a dramatic and at times tense look, at the American racist mind-set. It is a film that celebrates how “the best of enemies” can find common ground.

It also allows viewers of this 2019 release to look for signs of hope in our current political landscape.

About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall writings.me, since it was launched April 27, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to jameswall8@gmail.com Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years.
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1 Response to WW Film of the Week: The Best of Enemies

  1. gen katz says:

    Where have you been –I missed you

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