The Powerful Spoken Word: A Report from Full Frame Film Festival

Film is a visual medium, but ‘Best of Enemies’ and ‘BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez’ bear witness to the power of the spoken word.
The Powerful Spoken Word: A Report from Full Frame Film Festival
William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal in 'Best of Enemies'

“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”
Luke 6:45

“You keep saying you were always there / waiting for me to see you.”
Sonia Sanchez, “Poem No. 10”

Best of Enemies

In 1968, ABC News, mired in third place, made the bold or desperate move to eschew gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Republican and Democratic nominating conventions. The network instead featured ten “debates” between William F. Buckley, Jr., conservative kingmaker and editor of The National Review, and Gore Vidal, liberal emblem and author of Myra Breckinridge.

By the time the debates were done, one participant was so shaken by the hateful words that escaped his own lips that he penned an essay in Esquire trying to explain how he could be brought to call his adversary a “queer” and threaten to punch him “in the g****mn face.”

The other was so embittered by his opponent that he sat for years on an obituary, which he published at his adversary’s death. Its concluding section began with a prayer that his opponent would “rest in hell” along with all the people he served in life.

Morgan Neville’s and Robert Gordon’s entertaining yet disturbing Best of Enemies chronicles the debates and the lives of the participants who reportedly both loathed and feared one another. By the film’s testimony, Vidal and Buckley each thought the other not only wrong, but dangerous. That fear apparently fueled a set of debates so vitriolic, so filled with personal animosity and professional arrogance, that destroying ...

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Watch This Way
How we watch matters at least as much as what we watch. TV and movies are more than entertainment: they teach us how to live and how to love one another, for better or worse. And they both mirror and shape our culture.
Alissa Wilkinson
Alissa Wilkinson is Christianity Today's chief film critic and assistant professor of English and humanities at The King's College in New York City. She lives in Brooklyn.
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The Powerful Spoken Word: A Report from Full Frame Film Festival
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