The Best of Enemies is a 2019 drama directed and written by Robin Bissell. It is based on the book “The Best of Enemies: Race and Redemption in the New South” by Osha Gray Davidson and focuses on the rivalry between civil rights activist, Ann Atwater and Ku Klux Klan leader, C. P. Ellis. Mostly based on a true story, this film is both moving, timely and necessary, considering the racial tension that exists in the United States at present.
The Best of Enemies opens with four Klansmen shooting up the home of a White women because she’s dating a Black man. Ann Atwater (Taraji P. Henson), an African American civil rights activist lives in Durham, North Carolina and is constantly at war with the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and their leader and chapter president, C. P. Ellis (Sam Rockwell). Their battle and hate for each other has continued for a decade. Everything changed in 1971 when a fire occurred that destroyed the local Black school, burning half the building down. Because there’s no other school available for Black children to finish out the year, it’s suggested the children attend the segregated White school in Durham. The mind set of the White officials is that their schools should stay segregated. A team was sent to investigate the burnt school to determine if the Black children could continue to attend by splitting the day into two sessions. The White council decided it’s okay for the Black children to attend their partly burnt down school amongst heavy smoke and dangerous amounts of debris.
In order to deal with a court-ordered school desegregation decree, Babou Ceesay (Bill Riddick), who is Black, was called in to conduct a Charrette. Despite that this has never been done in such a big city, Babou was willing to try. The idea is for the community to discuss the pros and cons of integration, take a vote and come to a resolution. The rules included 2 equally chosen teams of Blacks and Whites. C. P. Ellis, who has a wife, Mary (Anne Heche) and four children, Vickie (McKenzie Applegate), Timmy (Brody Rose), Kenneth, (Carson Holmes) and Larry (Kevin Iannucci), wanted no part of the Charrette. Ann Atwater who is a forceful speaker and a single Black mother with two children, Marilynn (Nadej K. Bailey) didn’t want any part of a Charrette that would include C. P. Ellis. However, circumstances forced them to agree to co-chair this two-week community meeting, called a “Charrette”.
The Best of Enemies is part of our dark history of hate, segregation, violence and the kind of backward thinking that plagues this country today. We as Human Beings were not born with hate in our hearts. Hate is taught! What a waste of time, money and energy we keep exerting just to fight against the very people who helped shape this nation. Through The Best of Enemies we saw what living in harmony would be like. We saw two opposing mind sets come together and help one another. We all have something to give, why not share? I am happy to see a movie that deals with the very issues we are facing today. Schools are not legally segregated but communities are which causes schools to be mostly White or mostly Black. One of the best lines in the movie is “the same GOD made you, made me.” Everyone should see The Best of Enemies. Check It Out!