People aren’t feeling the new Taraji P. Henson movie Best of Enemies. The film portrays the friendship between civil rights activist Ann Atwater and Ku Klux Klan leader C.P. Ellis, played in the film by Sam Rockwell. When we reported on the new trailer, many readers were less than impressed with the film’s premise, with some even comparing it to the Amandla Stenberg-starring film Where Hands Touch, which features a love story between a biracial German girl and a Hitler Youth member.
Between this and the Nazi-sympathizing movie with Amandla, are we being pushed to humanize the oppressors?
— Rising Pupil (@risingpupil) October 11, 2018
This aint it. pic.twitter.com/vAjHsN2FbC
— Frank Glizzy (@themrwest) October 11, 2018
Why would we need this? pic.twitter.com/ooCAc4h6zK
— day ☀️ (@dayswithday) October 11, 2018
We don’t need this especially in this political climate
— Eartha Kitten (@ginandtectonica) October 11, 2018
— Tyrese ⚡ Fan Account ???? (@tellis904) October 11, 2018
Not one single person asked for this.
— Vera???????? (@vagisbusy) October 12, 2018
Others, though, called people out for not giving the film a chance, asking them to actually learn about the story the film’s dramatizing.
Y’all do know this is a true story? ???? Look up Ann Atwater and C.P. Ellis
— Shy (@SharonShyBrown) October 11, 2018
Yall gotta watch the trailer it aint what yall think it is ????????????♂️
— ???? 3-3 (@IkeGotTheJuice) October 12, 2018
A lot of people clearly didn’t watch the trailer. THEY ARE NOT IN A RELATIONSHIP of any kind lol
— Ren’war (@Ren_War89) October 11, 2018
Lol did anyone in the comments watch the trailer??? Does anyone know the true story it’s based on?? It’s not the “relationship” you think it is, expand your vocabulary
— Blessing (@L82thaprty) October 12, 2018
The story behind the film has nothing to do with romance. The Best of Enemies aims to tell the real story behind Atwater and Ellis’ unconventional friendship, which grew out of necessity.
Their friendship started when they were both chosen to chair the Save Our Schools summit in Durham, North Carolina. The summit was made to desegregate the community’s schools, and initially, Atwater and Ellis hated each other–the KKK was literally terrorizing Black people. But by being forced to work together, Ellis had a dramatic change of heart and eventually “went on to renounce the Klan and become a labor organizer and an admirer of Martin Luther King Jr.,” the News & Observer reported.
“I used to think that Ann Atwater was the meanest Black woman I’d ever seen in my life,” he said. “…But, you know, her and I got together one day for an hour or two and talked. And she is trying to help her people like I’m trying to help my people.”
Atwater also told NPR that when she and Ellis spoke with the children they were trying to help, they realized there was more to be done together.
“…We talked to the youth, and we found out that the children was the ones suffering,” she said. “Me and him was over there mad with each other, but we wasn’t getting anything done that the children wanted. And we cried at that time, and we began to melt down towards one another,” she said of the catalyst behind their eventual friendship.
Though the News & Observer reported that “both were being assailed by their friends as traitors and sellouts” because of their working relationship, Atwater still believed it was all a part of God’s plan for their lives.
“…If I look back at it through my Bible, through God’s work, God had a plan for both of us. And that plan was to put us there to make sure that this school integration would be done peacefully, and that’s what happened,” she said. “It’s just a strange thing, but it really happened. And the funny part about it, we stayed friends all these years.”
This is the story we’ll hopefully see on the big screen when The Best of Enemies premieres.