The Last White Knight
Rating: Four stars (out of five)
In the summer of 1965, Toronto filmmaker Paul Saltzman, then an civil rights activist and university student who drove from Ontario to Mississippi to register black voters, was punched by Byron (Delay) De La Beckwith Jr., a bigoted Ku Klux Klan member whose father was convicted in 1994 of murdering civil rights leader Medgar Evers. Forty years later, these polar opposites reunited for the first in a series of amazingly civil conversations that culminated in this at once fascinating and horrifying documentary. With astonishing candour, Delay — cheerful, unfailingly polite and mellower, yet still a KKK member who chillingly upholds many of his disturbing convictions — ingratiates himself as he chats with his newfound “friend,” the liberal, mild-mannered Jewish interrogator. Despite their opposing viewpoints — Saltzman doesn’t share the aging, gun-toting racist good ol’ boy’s view that U.S. President Barack Obama is the spawn of Satan, for instance, or his belief that the white “nigger-lovers” from the north should have minded their own business — these former opponents reminisce like long-lost buddies. Their colourful conversation is augmented by archival clips from the bad old days in the American south, new interviews with hooded Ku Klux Klan members who proudly express their frighteningly racist beliefs, and compelling commentary, anecdotes and social context provided by Morgan Freeman and Harry Belafonte, who says he still doesn’t feel safe in Mississippi. As bizarre and unsettling as this reunion is, it makes for a riveting, thought-provoking look at the causes of racism and the potential healing power of forgiveness and reconciliation.
© Copyright 2013