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STXfilms has released the first trailer for The Best of Enemies, which follows the real-life feud and subsequent friendship between civil rights activist Ann Atwater and former Ku Klux Klan leader C.P. Ellis in Durham, N.C.
The film takes inspiration from Osha Gray Davidson’s book, The Best of Enemies: Race and Redemption in the New South. Golden Globe winner and Oscar nominee Taraji P. Henson plays Atwater, while Oscar winner Sam Rockwell portrays Ellis.
The pair, initially adversaries, find themselves in a burgeoning friendship when asked to co-chair a committee overseeing the issue of segregation in schools in 1971. Ellis, who comes from a poor, working-class background, finds that his family shares similarities with Atwater’s.
The trailer opens on a news program announcing that a fire has destroyed East End Elementary, the school Atwater’s son attends. Atwater vows to find a solution, and when community organizer Bill Riddick (Babou Ceesay) appoints Atwater and Ellis to lead the discussion of integration, Ellis is initially reluctant.
“Would you look at that crazy white man,” Henson’s character remarks to Riddick as they watch an uncomfortable Ellis pacing in a cafeteria.
Though Ellis’ stance softens, his KKK cohorts are seen shooting houses and attacking schools in the black community. In one scene, Atwater stares, horrified, at a Klan hood and cloak displayed in a school hallway while Ellis looks on.
“She looked at me like I’m some kind of monster,” Ellis says to his wife, standing in his kitchen.
“Well what did you expect?” she replies.
Robin Bissell, a producer for The Hunger Games, makes his directing debut in The Best of Enemies. Producers for the film include Tobey Maguire and Danny Strong, who co-created and serves as co-showrunner on Henson’s show, Empire, with Lee Daniels. Wes Bentley, Anne Heche and Bruce McGill round out the cast.
An April 5, 2019, release date has been set.
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