Review: The Last White Knight
Canadian activist and filmmaker Paul Saltzman returns to Mississippi to meet Byron De La Beckwith, a member of the Ku Klux Klan who attacked Saltzman nearly 40 years ago.
Who’s in It?
Saltzman and De La Beckwith (Delay) are the two central figures from which the films moves, but it is enhanced by interviews with Harry Belafonte, Morgan Freeman, the family of murdered civil rights worker Medgar Evers, and other activists and historians.
A remarkable portrait of civility and history, Saltzman recounts a series of significant events in the south during the civil rights era while attempting a personal reconciliation. The series of interviews between him and Delay, including their very first tense and momentous meeting decades later at the site of the incident, make for the most compelling scenes.
Delay is still a member of the KKK, still uses the n-word, and still has disparaging things to say, for President Barack Obama and many others. Still, Saltzman, a man of incredibly integrity and purpose, engages Delay in a way few would be likely to do. He gives him a chance to present himself, and to the audience, those moments are rife with conflict.
He admits his hatred, but Delay, on in years, explains this is who is has been his whole life, and even his kids don’t approve. He may not be a wholly sympathetic figure, but still fascinating. Saltzman does well to recount other notable events, and the candor from Belafonte and Freeman is equally illuminating. The film oscillates between the deeply personal and the expansive social history, and while there is far more that can be discussed in the latter category, this is a still a stunning story.
Should You See It:
Yes, it is compelling, unnerving, and challenging.
Saltzman, while getting his hair cut. “Of course back then, blacks coudnt go into white barbershops, is that correct?”
Black barber: ”Yeah, You could go tere, but you might not come out.”
The Last White Knight plays at Bloor Hot Docs starting February 1.