The best historically focused documentaries succeed at finding modern parallels. “Best of Enemies” is opening in theaters this month and is well worthy of your attention especially for making connections to current events. I caught the masterfully constructed and very fascinating documentary for this very aware political junkie during the SXSW Film Festival this year. (In fact, I left a movie ten minutes early to catch a screening at the Alamo Ritz.) This political junkie wasn’t going to wait until the end of summer to catch this one.
The audience was a very receptive crowd eager to ask questions and engaged with the content of the documentary. And for good reason. “Best of Enemies” will resonate with people truly disgusted with the current state of American political discourse. This offers insight to the origins of our brutal partisan bickering that hinders dialogue among current issues: the commentary from liberal Gore Vidal and conservative William F. Buckley televised 1968 Presidential conventions. This has been reasonably and credibly cited as a turning point to where politics went sour.
Television is a medium that was relatively new to society and both commentators took advantage at this fact. With “Best of Enemies,” liberal actor John Lithgow provided voice-over to Gore Vidal while the conservative leaning actor Kelsey Grammar stood in for William Buckley. Both read articles published in Esquire Magazine that they wrote. This little additional detail provided additional stylistic context to the rather serious subject matter as a way to enhance dramatic and political flair for the conflict. They hurl insults at one another and it is rather amusing watching these two intellectual elitists go after one another in such a degree. It offers another layer of context with the power of spoken media.
In the era when someone like the loud-mouth Donald Trump commanding his lead over the fed up and crowded GOP Presidential contenders, we need resolve, understanding and substantive dialogue within the divisive political discourse more than ever. With a Presidential election on the horizon in the era of social media and post-Citizen’s United, “Best of Enemies” is the ideal documentary to reflect on the past and search our souls to ponder what we value as a society. It is a spectacular and fascinating expose on politics and should be required viewing well before the next big decision election.