The Best of Enemies Family Viewing Guidance

All families of DPS 6th-12th graders to access a virtual screening of The Best of Enemies. The film is based on true events from Durham in 1971, and is rated PG-13.

Families may watch “Best of Enemies” together with their young children. There are positive role models and messages throughout the film, but there is mild violence, racist language, adult themes, and a suggestive reference.

For More information see the Common Sense Media The Best of Enemies Movie Review

Timestamps for events which may trigger strong viewer reactions:

Racist language and use of the "N" word is used at many points throughout the movie.

@10 minutes- KKK members shot up a woman's house because she has a Black boyfriend.

@51 minutes- C.P. Ellis gets gun out of car trunk, loads it, and states that sometimes it does the talking for him.

@52 minutes- KKK robes and propaganda are set up in the hall of the school where the community charette is being held. There are some tense moments between KKK Youth Corps members and black youths in the hallway. Ann Atwater lectures black youths about destroying KKK materials and places the KKK hood back on the mannequin.

@1 hour and 31 minutes- KKK members threaten a woman and sexual assault is suggested but not seen on the screen.

Guidance for Viewing with Elementary Age Students

The following information and resources may help navigate viewing and discussing the movie with your elementary-aged children if you decide to include them in the viewing.

Guidance on Language: Use of “N” word throughout the film:

  • You can watch this TED TALK from Dr. Elizabeth Stordeur Pryor “Why It’s So Hard To Talk About The N Word”

  • You can read this NY Times Op-Ed from Ta-Nehisi Coates In Defense of a Loaded Word

  • Ask your child about their experiences with the word.

    • How do you feel about the word?

    • What do you know about the word?

    • What questions do you have about the word?

    • Where have you heard the word? Who can say it and when?

    • What could you do if you heard the word used inappropriately?

    • When might it be okay to hear/say the word?

    • This movie (& book) was set in 1971. What is different/the same about that word now?

Additional Resource for Parents of Young Children

Visit, Read, Watch: PBS Talking About Race and Racism

General questions to discuss with young children after watching the movie. Encourage your child to reflect on the movie with open ended questions.

  • What scene was your favorite? Why?

  • What scene was really powerful? What did it make you think about?

  • Do you think this story was fair?

  • What do you wish you knew more about after watching?

  • Were there any scenes you didn’t like watching? Why do you think that was?

Guidance on Violence & Discussions about the Ku Klux Klan

  • Acknowledge and validate any fears your child may have around racial violence.

  • This movie was based on true events, but is also fiction. What do you think the movie team added to make it scarier?

  • If there was a movie about a true event in our family do you think it would have both happy and scary/sad scenes?

  • Sometimes it helps to have a safety plan. What things in our family do we do to stay safe? How do we protect others in our community so they stay safe?

Guidance for Critcal Viewing with Secondary Students

The following information and resources may support critical conversations about the movie, the history on which it is based, and what those mean to your child.

Before viewing

  • According to a recent study from the Southern Poverty Law Center, the number of hate groups in the US was at its highest level in 2018 with 1,020 groups up 7% since 2017. How does this, if at all, affect your daily life? What are ways to combat hate?

  • Do all of your friends and family look like you? How has that shaped your perspective?

  • Take a moment and think of two-three ways systemic racism impacts members of our Durham community? What can Durhamites, adults and youth, do to fight the impacts of systemic racism right here in Durham? North Carolina? America?

After viewing

  • When C.P. confronts the city council chair about the tactics used to threaten the lumber store owner what does it reveal about CP’s real place in the white power structure?

  • In the film, Ann Atwater says, “The same God that made you, made me.” What does this pivotal scene mean to you?

  • In the film, we see Ann scold three boys for messing up the KKK display of materials and their hood. Why did she think the display should stay intact? Afterwards, she straightens the hood and for a brief moment we see the terror and pain on her face. How did that scene make you feel?

  • What was the turning point for C.P. Ellis? Was there a moment that defined his decision to denounce the KKK?

  • What do you hope that people take away from this film? How can it be used as a tool within your family/community to spark more conversation around these important topics?

Related Readings Available Online for Secondary Students

All 6th-12th grade students have access to an online digital library of over 2000 texts in our secondary core literacy curriculum, StudySync. Students can search the library using keywords, authors, and specific titles. The titles below are a sampling of literature, informational texts, and poems by African American authors related to content, themes, and ideas in the film The Best of Enemies.

StudySync Library Texts:

  • Letter from Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King, Jr. Non-Fiction, 1963

  • A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry Drama, 1959

  • Any Human to Another by Countee Cullen Poetry, 1934

  • Choices by Nikki Giovanni Poetry, 1978

  • I, Too, Sing America by Langston Hughes Poetry, 1925

  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison Fiction, 1952

  • Lift Every Voice and Sing by James Weldon Johnson Poetry, 1900

  • Literary Seminar: The Writings of Pauli Murray by StudySync Informational Text, 2019

  • Life Doesn’t Frighten Me by Maya Angelou Poetry, 1993

  • Mare’s War by Tanita S. Davis Fiction, 2011

  • Sympathy by Paul Laurence Dunbar Poetry, 1899

  • Speech to the Young: Speech to the Progress-Toward by Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry, 1932

  • Yet Do I Marvel by Countee Cullen Poetry, 1925

Directions for to log in to StudySync are available HERE.