Coming to theatres today, Friday, January 6: ACCIDENTAL COURTESY: DARYL DAVIS, RACE & AMERICA
SXSW 2016, special jury award
Cleveland, Atlanta, Nashville, Montclair, Bergen
A portrait of an African-American man who befriends KKK members.
Daryl Davis is a long-time professional musician, but it’s his avocation that makes him more distinct: Unable to understand how someone who didn’t know him could hate him, the middle-aged African-American man has regularly contacted and eventually befriended dozens of members of the Ku Klux Klan for decades. While often initially finding resistance, his perseverance, and, critically, his willingness to listen, has led to unlikely friendships and understanding, and, in several cases, contributed to diehard KKK members leaving the organization and renouncing their racist worldview. Ornstein follows Davis around the country as he speaks with current and past members of hate groups, in addition to being confronted by Black Lives Matter activists who find his form of activism ineffective and inappropriate. While Davis is able to hold his own, and recognizes the slow nature of the kinds of relationships he has built, he still sees the value in maintaining dialogue with opponents in our polarized, echo-chamber society. Although Ornstein captures some thought-provoking interactions and effectively conveys Davis’ mission, he stumbles in devoting too much of the film to his subject’s frankly much less interesting music background.