Review: Musician seeks out bigots in documentary ‘Accidental Courtesy’

Daryl Davis and a Ku Klux Klan member in the documentary "Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race & America."
Daryl Davis and a Ku Klux Klan member in the documentary “Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race & America.”
(First Run Features)

Though the subject of “Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race & America” is a musician who has played with Chuck Berry and Little Richard, it’s not Daryl Davis’ musical talent that makes him the focus of the documentary. Instead, it’s his ongoing mission as an African American man to meet members of hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and build relationships with them. In decades spent doing this, he collects the robes of the members who leave the KKK because of their interactions.

Davis travels the country in his efforts to introduce Klansmen to the object of their hatred. He finds opposition both from the groups he seeks out, as well as from Black Lives Matter activists.

Directed by Matt Ornstein, the documentary presents a balanced look at the man and his work, demonstrating the power of one-on-one interaction, while not hesitating to show criticism from those who disagree with his methods. It may lack focus in its approach to its subject, but Davis’ compelling character and powerful message keep the audience engaged.

“Accidental Courtesy” couldn’t be timelier. Hate groups have seen increased visibility before and after the presidential election, and rural and cosmopolitan voters have been criticized for their lack of understanding of experiences not their own. The documentary features a postscript addressing Donald Trump’s victory, with Davis sharing his thoughts on the future.



‘Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race & America’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes


Playing: Vintage Los Feliz Theatre, Los Angeles

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