The documentary film “Best of Enemies” is somewhat topical, given an unusually contentious U.S. presidential campaign season.
Directed by Morgan Neville and Robert Gordon, this 87-minute film is about two “towering public intellectuals” on opposite sides of the political spectrum who debate each other during the Democratic and Republican national conventions in 1968.
“Best of Enemies” will be shown at Star Hall, 159 E. Center St., on Thursday, Oct. 20, at 7 p.m. The film screenings are always free to the public.
In 1968, television news ratings for ABC were “dead last,” prompting the network to hire National Review magazine founder William F. Buckley Jr. – a leader in the new conservative movement – and novelist Gore Vidal – a Democrat and cousin of Jackie Kennedy Onassis.
Both men believed the other’s political ideologies were dangerous for America.
“With political campaigns in full swing and election day just weeks away, ‘Best of Enemies’ is a fascinating look at what many argue to be the birth of modern political coverage and the rise of the political pundits who currently dominate that coverage,” Utah Film Center Artistic Director Patrick Hubley said.
The Grand County Public Library has collaborated with the Utah Film Center for five years to bring independent movies to Moab that otherwise would not likely reach local movie theaters, Grand County Public Library Assistant Jessie Magleby said.
Library staff members meet every three months to discuss possible film selections from a list of patron requests; “Best of Enemies” was recommended by three different library patrons.
“The film is wildly entertaining,” Magleby said. “One thing I noticed about Vidal and Buckley was how extremely erudite and articulate they are,” even while devolving into insults and name-calling.
“The film center was excited to show it,” she added. “It’s perfect timing.”
A news release from the film center described the film in this way: “Like rounds in a heavyweight battle, they pummeled out policy and personal insults – their explosive exchanges devolving into vitriolic name-calling. Live and unscripted, they kept viewers riveted. Ratings for ABC News skyrocketed, and a new era in public discourse was born.”
The film was an official selection of the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.
The 10 televised debates between Buckley and Vidal signaled the “end of objective media coverage of politics,” Hubley said.
“Anyone interested in politics or media will be riveted by this film,” he added.
Documentary “Best of Enemies” recounts epic 1968 debates
What: “Best of Enemies”
When: Thursday, Oct. 20, at 7 p.m.
Where: Star Hall, 159 E. Center St.
With political campaigns in full swing and election day just weeks away, ‘Best of Enemies’ is a fascinating look at what many argue to be the birth of modern political coverage and the rise of the political pundits who currently dominate that coverage.