Cartersville fills in for Durham in ‘The Best of Enemies’

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With the opening weekend for “The Best of Enemies” in full swing, local theater-goers may spot some familiar backdrops on the big screen. Even though the film is based on a true story in Durham, North Carolina, portions of the movie were filmed in the heart of Cartersville in 2017.

“I’m always excited when we get to show off our beautiful historic courthouse and our county,” said Bartow County Clerk Kathy Gill, referring to the gold dome structure on 115 W. Cherokee Ave. that served as Bartow’s courthouse from the early 1900s to 1992. “You never know which scenes will actually end up in the movie, so we'll enjoy trying to pick those out.

“The production company was on-site at the historic courthouse for five days in June of 2017. ... In addition to the courtroom, they converted one of the offices on the first floor into the ‘judge's chambers.’ I believe they may have shot a few scenes in the hall as well.”

Based on Osha Gray Davidson’s book, “The Best of Enemies: Race and Redemption in the New South,” the movie stars Taraji P. Henson as civil rights activist Ann Atwater and Sam Rockwell as Ku Klux Klan leader C.P. Ellis. Set in 1971, the film explores the initial battle and surprising friendship that ensues between the two after they are tasked to lead a summit relating to the desegregation of Durham’s schools.

Along with the gold dome courthouse, “The Best of Enemies” filmed at Ross’ Diner in downtown Cartersville.

“Fun fact. A trivia question on film website www.imbd.com: ‘Did You Know? The restaurant scene was shot at Ross's Diner in Cartersville, Georgia,’” said Ellen Archer, executive director for the Cartersville-Bartow County Convention & Visitors Bureau. “As far as what I hope ‘Best of Enemies’ will do for Cartersville in terms of being a boost to tourism, probably not a lot. But who [knows], it could be the next ‘Gone With the Wind.’

“Anyway, a single scene in a single film is really not enough for tourism traction, except the random mentions, such as the trivia questions I referenced from IMBD. To really feel the effect, you have to have something, like Conyer's ‘Vampire [Diaries]’ or Senoia's ‘The Walking Dead.’ But, that does add one more credit to our list, which increases our exposure in the industry and that in turn could lead to a pop culture phenomenon on film happening here. And mind you, we're having an average of one scout inquiry or visit a week now, so it could happen. … I certainly do plan on going to see ‘The Best of Enemies.’ From what I've read, it's a good film.”

Like Gill, Hannah Surrett — who started working in downtown about a month after “The Best of Enemies” crew wrapped in Bartow — is excited to see Cartersville featured in another film.

Continuing to capture the eye of Hollywood, Bartow has welcomed numerous entertainment projects over the years, some of which include “The Red Road” SundanceTV series and films, such as “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” which was released in 2017, “The Fundamentals of Caring” in 2016, “90 Minutes in Heaven” in 2015, “Need for Speed” in 2014, “Devil’s Knot” in 2013, “The Three Stooges” in 2012 and “The Mosquito Coast” in 1986.

“I will probably see ‘The Best of Enemies’ in theaters,” said Surrett, marketing and promotions coordinator for the Cartersville Downtown Development Authority. “I’m very interested in history and am passionate about civil rights, so this is right up my alley. I have read mixed reviews on the movie, but am excited to check it out for myself.

“I’m looking forward to seeing Cartersville, specifically downtown Cartersville, represented on the big screen again. It is always such a thrill not only to recognize a location in a movie, but it be where you live and work. I love that downtown Cartersville has had the opportunity to be featured on the big screen quite a few times over the last few years. I feel it speaks volumes to the quality of the town and the people who live here.”

As Surrett noted, “The Best of Enemies” is receiving split reviews. On Friday evening, the film was scoring 50% and 48% on critique-aggregate websites Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes, respectively. Running the gamut, the movie’s “top critic” reviews on www.rottentomatoes.com ranged from the Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips — “I like this movie, especially now, because it puts a premium … on finding compromise and resolution the hard way: by getting to know your ideological adversary, and then doing something about what needs doing,” to New York Times’ A.O. Scott — “The political moral of the movie is that change happens when the oppressed are nice to their oppressors.”