Magnolia Pictures has released the first trailer for the upcoming documentary Best of Enemies, and it’s pretty great. Directed by Morgan Neville (Twenty Feet from Stardom) and Robert Gordon, the film chronicles a turning point in television news during the summer of 1968, as ABC hired two towering intellectuals to debate the Republican and Democratic National Conventions in an effort to boost its ratings. Democrat and novelist Gore Vidal was seated across William F. Buckley Jr., a leader of the new conservative movement, and the two went at it on air, resulting in an all-out battle the devolved into name-calling and spewed vitriol.
The movie looks great, as it seems to highlight the point at which our nation’s media discourse changed from intellectual sparring to knock-down, drag-out fights. It’s funny to see the nascent aspects of the current cable news landscape in this archival footage, but then you realize just how far we’ve fallen and it becomes very, very sad. Though I will say Vidal and Buckley Jr. are much more eloquent in their insults and jabs than any of the pundits currently populating the airwaves.
Neville and Gordon look to have put together an incredibly fascinating documentary, and it received rave reviews out of TIFF last year so I’m eager to catch the film myself. Watch the trailer below. Best of Enemies opens in theaters on July 31st.
Here’s the official synopsis for Best of Enemies:
In the summer of 1968, television news changed forever. Dead last in the ratings, ABC hired two towering public intellectuals to debate each other during the Democratic and Republican national conventions. William F. Buckley Jr. was a leading light of the new conservative movement. A Democrat and cousin to Jackie Onassis, Gore Vidal was a leftist novelist and polemicist. Armed with deep-seated distrust and enmity, Vidal and Buckley believed each other’s political ideologies were dangerous for America. Like rounds in a heavyweight battle, they pummeled out policy and personal insult—their explosive exchanges devolving into vitriolic name-calling. Live and unscripted, they kept viewers riveted. Ratings for ABC News skyrocketed. And a new era in public discourse was born.