The Best of Enemies

“The Best of Enemies” sees civil rights activist Ann Atwater go up against noted Ku Klux Klan member C. P. Ellis on the issue of school integration – and the pervasive sonic theme here is, indeed, integration. At the beginning of the trailer, for example, the sound of a distant school bell is suddenly engulfed by a burning flame; this bell acts as a sound bridge, morphing into the sound of a ringing landline telephone. Similarly, this trailer employs a very subtle mashup that in some sense embodies the racial relations that the film promises to explore. 

While some might first identify the song used in the trailer as Keep Me, a song from The Black Keys’ 2004 album Rubber Factory, others will instead pick up on the unmistakable voice at 0:26: Missy be puttin’ it down / on the hottest round, Missy Elliott sings, the vocal stem from her 2001 hit Get Your Freak On overlaid atop the riff from Keep Me. The original lyrics from Keep Me appear later, but it’s hard not to notice the blended, mashed up use of music by both black and white artists.

With the film taking place in Durham, North Carolina circa 1971, Keep Me is not strictly speaking of southern origins nor of the time period in which the film takes place, but it does keep a suitable vibe, with a raw blues rock aesthetic taken directly from the work of seminal early blues artists such as Robert Johnson and Howlin’ Wolf. Moreover, the lyrics are on-point: Keep me clean / keep me warm, singer Dan Auerbach intones, simple commands that underscore the titular rights at stake in the civil rights era.

Just as the music used in the trailer has a heritage that stretches back to the beginnings of the blues but is in fact of a far more recent vintage, so one could consider what a historical drama on school integration is doing with a release date of 2019; namely, it continues to bear political relevance.