The Powerful Spoken Word: A Report from Full Frame Film Festival (via Christianity Today)

Extremely interesting piece. Check it out.

Full Title: “The Powerful Spoken Word: A Report from Full Frame Film Festival (via Christianity Today)”

In 1968, ABC News, mired in third place, made the bold or desperate move to eschew gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Republican and Democratic nominating conventions. The network instead featured ten “debates” between William F. Buckley, Jr., conservative kingmaker and editor of The National Review, and Gore Vidal, liberal emblem and author of Myra Breckinridge.

By the time the debates were done, one participant was so shaken by the hateful words that escaped his own lips that he penned an essay in Esquire trying to explain how he could be brought to call his adversary a “queer” and threaten to punch him “in the g****mn face.”

The other was so embittered by his opponent that he sat for years on an obituary, which he published at his adversary’s death. Its concluding section began with a prayer that his opponent would “rest in hell” along with all the people he served in life.

Morgan Neville’s and Robert Gordon’s entertaining yet disturbing Best of Enemies chronicles the debates and the lives of the participants who reportedly both loathed and feared one another. By the film’s testimony, Vidal and Buckley each thought the other not only wrong, but dangerous. That fear apparently fueled a set of debates so vitriolic, so filled with personal animosity and professional arrogance, that destroying each other apparently became more important to the icons than advocating for their own beliefs.

The film uses generous amounts of archival footage to show the principals in action. It also includes reflections from contemporary media scholars and participants about how political and social discourse has changed since nineteen sixty-eight. (It does not feature interviews with the subjects. Gordon told reporters that they interviewed Vidal before he passed away but that the footage was unusable. He openly wondered if Vidal’s “paranoia” that the documentarians were secretly “Buckleyites” led him to sabotage the interview.)

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Christianity Today | Full Frame Film Festival

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