Doc Talk

When talking the talk is walking the walk

Daryl Davis (left) and Frank Ancona at a KKK event in “Accidental Courtesy.”
Daryl Davis
Daryl Davis (left) and Frank Ancona at a KKK event in “Accidental Courtesy.”

Sometimes the most acrimonious divisions can be bridged by having people just talk to each other civilly and face-to-face. That is the simple philosophy behind Daryl Davis’s project. Best known as a blues musician who has played with the likes of Chuck Berry and Little Richard, Davis spends his spare time socializing and befriending members of the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis — an odd and potentially dangerous hobby because Davis is black. For many of these people, Davis is the first African American they have ever spoken to, and in some cases he has so impressed them that Klansman have dropped out of the organization, giving Davis their discarded robes and hoods, of which he now has a large collection.

In Matt Ornstein’s documentary “Accidental Courtesy,” Davis roams the United States meeting both alt-right individuals and young civil rights activists — and some of the latter have reservations about his tactics. The film shows what can be accomplished if we expand our range of communication beyond soundbites, slogans, social media.

“Accidental Courtesy” premieres on PBS’s “Independent Lens” at 10 p.m. on Monday.

Person of color


As a child, Edythe “Edy” Boone dreamed of inventing a color that no one had ever seen before. She hasn’t accomplished that yet, but the San Francisco-based African American septuagenarian has for decades created lush expansive art. She has inspired and directed communities in creating murals that have become more urgent in political and social content after the killings of unarmed black men such as Michael Brown and Eric Garner — her nephew.

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Marlene “Mo” Morris’s documentary “A New Color — The Art of Being Edythe Boone” examines the fascinating life and vivid work of this muralist, activist, and educator. Born in East Harlem and self-taught, Boone first became fascinated with the visual arts as a child visiting her grandmother, a seamstress whose home was filled with a wealth of fabrics of different colors, patterns, and textures — an influence that can be seen in Boone’s artwork. She spent her early years raised by an Orthodox Jewish family that encouraged her interest in different cultures. In the 1960s, influenced by the Black Panthers and civil rights movement generally, her work became more political. Over the decades, as her work evolved, her determination to transform the world through art and activism has only grown stronger.

“A New Color — The Art of Being Edythe Boone” can be seen on Tuesday at 8 p.m. on “America Reframed” on PBS’s WORLD channel. It will stream for free starting Wednesday at

Image from "One Big Home," directed by Thomas Bena.
Image from "One Big Home," directed by Thomas Bena.

Home wreckers I

A favorite vacation spot for the rich and famous, Martha’s Vineyard is also the home of residents who aren’t so rich and famous. Some are concerned watching these newcomers build bigger and bigger mansions, consuming resources, taking over land, and destroying older homes. Thomas Bena once made a living as a carpenter working on this new construction. But after a while something didn’t seem right about it, and he decided to make a documentary. His film, “One Big Home,” investigates the wave of gentrification sweeping the island and turning it into a collection of virtual fiefdoms. He riles up home owners and contractors as he tries to find out who’s benefiting and who’s losing out.

“One Big Home” will be screened by newportFILM on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Casino Theatre, 9 Freebody St., Newport, R.I. After the screening there will be a conversation between the filmmaker and Aquidneck Land Trust spokesman Chuck Allot.

Home wreckers II


In Ted Roach’s “120 Days,” Miguel Cortes, a husband and the father of two daughters, has the title length of time to settle his affairs and leave the United States for his native Mexico. When his illegal status was discovered after a routine traffic stop, Cortes was presented with this harsh order by a North Carolina judge, leaving him with the choice of obeying the law and abandoning his family or ignoring it and disappearing into the underground as a wanted man. Roach puts a human face on the numbers and issues involved in the country’s debate over immigration.

“120 Days” screens on Sunday at 9 part of the “Reel South series” on the PBS WORLD Channel.

Flesh and blood

Sometimes you might wish that cinema was a little less vérité. Frederick Wiseman’s documentary “Meat” (1976) is as raw as the title suggests and as well prepared as a beef bourguignon. The institute subjected to Wiseman’s unblinking eye is the Monfort plant in Greeley, Colo., a vast factory that transforms warm-blooded animals into tasty cuts ready for the broiler. It’s bad enough watching a steer get gradually reduced to various parts, with severed tongues hanging from hooks and ranks of disembodied heads staring into the void. But then they bring on the lambs.

The real subjects to pity here, however, are the workers who keep the factory running. Regimented as in any assembly line, they perform their meticulous carnage with the precision of an auto factory. Their faces are as numb as their white aprons are bloody. These are the real victims of mass consumption, Wiseman suggests in what might not be his best film but is probably his most horrifying.

“Meat” screens on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. as part of the Frederick Wiseman: For the Record series at the Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave.

Peter Keough can be reached at