VERY GOOD DOCS
Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race, and America
Daryl Davis is a DC-area African-American musician, author, and lecturer who’s spent the past quarter-century or so pursuing a peculiar hobby: he sits down with leaders of the KKK and other hate groups, talks to them, tries to see them as human beings, and to get them to see him the same way. And it’s made a difference; several of those he’s met have subsequently left those groups, and those lives. Director Matthew Ornstein takes his camera along with Davis on a journey through the South and Midwest, discussing their history and the people he’s met along the way. For much of its running time, Accidental Courtesy is an absorbing look at a fascinating figure. But it doesn’t lionize its subject; the head of the Southern Poverty Law Center questions the effectiveness of what he’s doing, and he ends up in a charged, harrowing confrontation with Black Lives Matter activists, a conversation that unexpectedly dives into the generational divide in black activism, and ends up turning the whole movie inside out. A complicated and unexpectedly challenging exploration of vital and timely subjects.
The opening music is dreamlike, and the images are striking: women on their bikes, riding through East LA, with bandanas over their faces like Wild West bandits. They are the Ovarian Psycos, an “all women of color bicycling brigade,” and this immersive documentary by Joanna Sokolowski and Kate Trumbull-Lavelle captures their scene – as well as the social and economic world and personal tragedies that shaped it. The personalities are vivid and the filmmaking is both mournful and exuberant, capturing these streets, their stories, and their world.