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Documentary captures historic debates between Buckley, Vidal

We are currently experiencing our share of public political grudge matches, mostly involving GOP candidate-who-must-not-be-named. But none has the feel of the intellectual heavyweight bouts between William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal.

The 10 televised 1968 debates between the two men (now both deceased) are the subject of the wonderfully entertaining documentary “Best of Enemies,” which is showing for one week only at the Screening Room Cinema Cafe (3131 Sheridan Drive, Amherst). Directed by noted documentarians Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville, the Sundance Film Festival favorite shows National Review founder Buckley and author Vidal tackling topics including sex, religion, politics and war.

It’s an incisive, fast-moving film whether you were around to watch the debates or not, and no matter where you fall on the ideological spectrum. It’s also full of laugh-out-loud moments, such as Vidal’s winking reference to the National Review as Buckley’s “little magazine which I do not read.” “Best of Enemies” might set a record for the most piercing comments exchanged by two individuals in a 90-minute film.

You can catch the documentary at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 4, 5, 7, 8, 10, and 11 at the Screening Room. For the venue’s full schedule, visit screeningroom.net. (Another Sundance 2015 selection, the teen sci-fi flick “Turbo Kid,” screens at 9:30 p.m. Sept. 4 and 5, and 7:30 p.m. Sept. 9.)

– Christopher Schobert

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