THE BEST OF ENEMIES Review — A Touching Tale of Civil Rights and Wrongs

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The Best of Enemies review —  Based on a true story about an astounding relationship that changed a city forever.

The Best of Enemies review Having been born and raised in a relatively progressive area, I’m always surprised and ashamed to see that during my lifetime, segregation was legally practiced and that Ku Klux Klan members unabashedly flaunted and promoted their affiliation in broad daylight. The Best of Enemies is an important reminder that this kind of outrageous behavior is not so far behind us, and must never be repeated.

The Best of Enemies is a stranger than fiction drama based on a true event that occurred in 1971. It focuses on the uncanny relationship between feisty African American civil rights activist Ann Atwater (Taraji P. Henson), and C.P. Ellis (Sam Rockwell), the leader of the Ku Klux Klan in Durham, North Carolina.

When the local African American public school is severely damaged by fire, the issue arises of where the students will be educated. Many white members of the community, especially those involved with the Klan, were not ready for integration, and were very vocal about it.

Atwater and Ellis were recruited to co-chair a two-week community summit that would sort the matter out. Meanwhile the Klan openly puts deplorable pressure on everyone who believes differently than they do, be they white or black.

While the film feels a little leisurely and predictable, and perhaps lacks the sharp nuance of say, a Blackkklansman, it is moving, inspiring and informative none the less. Terrific performances by Rockwell, an extremely convincing bigoted good-old-boy, and Henson, who throws her all into adopting the posture and speech patterns of her character, take the film to another level.

The relationship between the two real life protagonists is so outlandish, in fact, that if you didn’t see film clips of them together, talking about their experiences and relationship, during the end credits, you’d still be wondering if The Best of Enemies was based on fact or fiction.

This is a rare film that takes a look at our historical lows to keep us from repeating them, and to perhaps even lift us higher.

Rated PG-13

2 Hours 12 Minutes

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The Best of Enemies review —  Based on a true story about an astounding relationship that changed a city forever.


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Lisa Johnson Mandell

Lisa Johnson Mandell

Lisa Johnson Mandell is an award winning journalist, author and film/TV critic. She can be heard regularly on Cumulus radio stations throughout the US, and on BBC Radio.

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