AFI Docs to open with ‘Best of Enemies,’ close with ‘Mavis’

Best of Enemies

William F. Buckley Jr., left, and Gore Vidal in a scene from the film “Best of Enemies.”

(ABC / Magnolia Pictures)

Films about an intellectual rivalry that foreshadowed the rise of pundit television and a soul singer who left behind a civil-rights legacy will bookend this year’s AFI Docs.

The Washington, D.C.-area festival will kick off June 17 with Morgan Neville and Robert Gordon’s “Best of Enemies,” about William F. Buckley Jr. and Gore Vidal’s televised clashes during the 1968 Democratic and Republican national conventions, organizers announced Tuesday. Magnolia Pictures will release the film July 31 in Los Angeles and New York, with other cities to follow.

Jessica Edwards’ “Mavis!,” a documentary portrait of the R&B and gospel singer and activist Mavis Staples, will conclude the gathering June 21. HBO has acquired U.S. television rights for the film, which does not yet have an air date.

“We are delighted to present these exceptional films to open and close this year’s festival,” AFI Docs director Michael Lumpkin said in a statement. He added that both works “feature remarkable people who have made a mark on this country.”


Edwards previously appeared at AFI Docs with her short film “Seltzer Works,” and “Mavis!” represents her feature-length debut.

Neville won an Oscar for his documentary “20 Feet From Stardom” in 2014.

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