THE BEST OF ENEMIES is a timely drama starring Academy Award® nominee Taraji P. Henson (Hidden Figures) and Academy Award® winner Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri).
Based on a true story, THE BEST OF ENEMIES centers on the unlikely relationship between Ann Atwater (Henson), an outspoken civil rights activist, and C.P. Ellis (Rockwell), a local Ku Klux Klan leader who reluctantly co-chaired a community summit, battling over the desegregation of schools in Durham, North Carolina during the racially-charged summer of 1971. The incredible events that unfolded would change Durham and the lives of Atwater and Ellis forever.
In 1971, Ann Atwater and C.P. Ellis were well-known residents of Durham, North Carolina, but certainly not a pair you’d expect to see together.
Ann Atwater (TARAJI P. HENSON), 32, was a single mother, raising her daughters in East Durham. Brazen slumlords, firetrap schools and do-nothing local officials were daily facts of life, but Ann fought back as a grass roots activist at Operation Breakthrough. Roughhouse Annie, as some called her, was a blessing to her neighbors, and a threat to her foes.
C.P. Ellis (SAM ROCKWELL), age 44, eked out a living at a tiny East Durham gas station. He owned the place, but in Durham he’d always be a “linthead” – poor white trash – just like his millhand dad, and his own four kids. C.P. joined the KKK because he wanted to belong. They listened when C.P. spoke, and by 1971, he’d become their voice as Durham’s Exalted Cyclops of the Ku Klux Klan.
The idea of Ann and C.P. ever exchanging a civil word was close to unthinkable. But in writerdirector ROBIN BISSELL’s THE BEST OF ENEMIES, a dramatic feature film inspired by true events, these two bitter rivals are forced to start talking to resolve a crisis in their dangerously divided city.
Despite the Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling in 1954, Durham’s public schools were still segregated in 1971, and when fire struck a black neighborhood school, the city decided those students would have to finish the year at the damaged building. Better that, they said, than over-crowding the kids at the white school. With elections coming up, Councilman Carvie Oldham (BRUCE McGILL) and Garland Keith (NICK SEARCY) of the White Citizens Council were not about to rock the boat. But that boat completely changed course when Bill Riddick (BABOU CEESAY) was brought on board to resolve Durham’s escalating crisis with a charrette.