Movie Review: Accidental Courtesy
Daryl Davis has an unusual hobby. Though primarily known as an accomplished musician who has performed all over the world with legends like Chuck Berry and Little Richard, in his spare time he likes to meet and befriend members of the Ku Klux Klan. Daryl has built his relationships person by person and his campaign has proved remarkably effective. Many members of the KKK he has connected with have been forced to reconsider their beliefs, with some even leaving the organization as a result.
Davis has collected hoods, robes and other artifacts from friends who have left the Klan, building a collection piece by piece, story by story, person by person in hopes of eventually opening a “Museum of the Klan.”
Accidental Courtesy is a rare and powerful portrait of a man who has truly embodied the idea that real and profound change happens one person at a time. He also shows that grassroots movements work when they embrace in person one-on-one interactions. It is a controversial concept that not everyone agrees with, but one that seems particularly important in the wake of the recent election.
Directed by Matt Ornstein, Accidental Courtesy is a fascinating documentary focusing on one man’s interesting life as he wins over one racist at a time. While Daryl Davis is the main focus on the film it also is a bigger look at race relations through the years and especially today. Davis is followed as he seeks out old friends he inspired to leave the Klan and those still active in the organization today, as well as academics, civil rights activists, and neo-Nazis as he attempts to answer his lifelong question: “How can you hate me when you don’t even know me?”
That final question is a theme of the film and it asks that question not to racists but also to Black Lives Matter activists who Davis meets. And that sit down is one of the most interesting of the film and really pivots it in many ways. Where was Davis during recent rallies and protests? Is he a traitor to his own race? Is his work really having an impact? There’s no clear answers and the viewer is left to make up their own mind but Ornstein examines Davis’ world much like Davis examines the world around him.
Davis explores his mission with a sort of anthropological glee as an outsider and the film explains what in his history led to this. Agree or disagree with Davis, his mission and interactions comes off as either really brave or really naive. But, what’s clear is that Davis has changed hearts and minds in his work. We see it on the screen. We meet some of the people.
I have no idea how long this film has been in the works but with the veil lifted in America and racism and racists out and proud, the documentary is timely and provides one route by which we can make the world better and a person who’s doing it. Davis shows it’s possible to change the world one person at a time.
Overall Rating: 9.5
Graphic Policy was provided with a FREE screener for review