Accomplished African-American rock and blues musician Daryl Davis has developed an interesting hobby: he seeks out members of notorious race-oriented hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and does his best to change their minds and hearts through friendship, logic and historical argument.
While describing Davis’s activity as ‘interesting’ is putting it mildly, director Matt Ornstein’s Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race & America delves deeply into several aspects of American history and the who, what, where, when, why and how of this unique approach to combatting racial prejudice.
As always, I don’t believe in spoilers, so consider this a heads up on Accidental Courtesy instead of a straight review.
Let’s a take a look at the trailer:
Now that you have the gist of what the film is about, I’ll give you a few reasons why I think you should keep up with Accidental Courtesy and see it as soon as it’s distributed.
First and foremost, technically speaking, Accidental Courtesy is impressive and noticeably clean. Shots sweep, cuts are creative and engaging, but nothing is ever distracting or obnoxious. Ornstein always makes what is on screen interesting to look at, but never so much that the viewer’s attention would be taken out of the storytelling.
Additionally, the premise is so unique – almost ridiculous, really – that it begs to be given at least a little bit of a chance. As people of color and especially as Black or African-Americans, we are taught to do everything other than trust or try to understand the activities of members of race-oriented hate groups. The fact that Davis is actively seeking out, befriending, getting (mostly) positive results and living to tell the tale about said groups is a fascinating aspect in itself.
While Davis’s hobby is the basis for the film, Accidental Courtesy also delves into the impact of great historical events and accomplishments such as the inception of rock and roll, the American Civil Rights Movement, the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the events surrounding the formation of the Black Lives Matter Movement. Contrary to what one may think at first glance at the synopsis of this documentary, Davis is an incredibly intelligent, proud Black American man who not only knows, but also carries a great deal of pride and respect for many facets of our history. His approach to combatting prejudice is unconventional, yes, but he is by no means an ignorant or stupid man. There is little friction within the film, but the one section that features any real vehemence comes from a surprising – but completely understandable – source.
On a personal level, I do not necessarily agree with Davis’s approach, but I do see his importance in the collective movement towards understanding and equality. I am not yet at a place where I could effectively do what he is doing, but what I loved about Accidental Courtesy is that the film never asked me to be. I think the real power of the film is that it consistently provokes thought, but never preaches. It is uncomfortable and unnerving at times, but it has layers upon layers to think about and discuss, which contributed to making the viewing experience extremely intellectually and emotionally stimulating. The film is, without a doubt, something that will spark conversation, whether it is presented in a private, public or educational forum. I often prefer to see films alone, but this is one of the few I wish I had seen with someone solely for the inevitable conversation that would have immediately begun following the screening.
To keep up with the film and to see when it may be distributed, you can jump here.
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– Khylen Steward, CBS Local