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‘Killer Bees’ Movie Gets It Right – Review by Film International

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A Bridgehampton ‘Killer Bees’ Movie Review Gets It Right
Stephen Whitty reviews the sports documentary for Film Journal International.
Stephen Whitty with intro by Dan Rattiner  August 11, 2018

Photo by Hilary McHone

The movie that local boys Ben and Orson Cummings made about the Bridgehampton School Killer Beesbasketball team premiered on Wednesday, July 25. Among the best reviews, besides The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, was this one in Film Journal International.

Reviewed by Stephen Whitty

The new line about playing sports isn’t that it builds character—it reveals it.

And, sometimes, it reveals something about an entire community.

Killer Bees follows a Bridgehampton, Long Island basketball team over their 2015 season. And the first adjustment many audiences will have to make is realizing how little they really know about the Hamptons and the people who live there.

Yes, it is full of ridiculous mansions, hedge-fund billionaires and polo ponies. But a few generations ago, a lot of it was still potato fields. And in the ’40s and ’50s, employment agencies recruited African-Americans from Virginia and North Carolina to work them.

They lived in shacks, even in chicken coops. Many of them stayed past the harvest—and some of them held on even after the potato fields got plowed under and work became harder to come by. After all, this was their home now, too.

And as Killer Bees shows, plenty of them are hanging on, mostly in the poor sections of Bridgehampton. But it’s grown harder, as affordable housing grows even scarcer. And the newer, richer residents start wondering why they even need a public high school (or the taxes that support it).

And so, enter the Bridgehampton Killer Bees—here not only to win, but to prove that they, and their school, matter.

The sometimes scattered but still striking movie follows the same path as other inspirational sports films. We meet dedicated coaches, natural athletes and irrepressible clowns. There’s a reputation at stake—the basketball team is one of the most successful in the state. And there’s the natural, dramatic progression of watching them battle through another season.

But although the games themselves provide movement and energy, this could just as easily be a movie about the chess team or the robotics club. It’s not really about the sport. It’s about the people involved in it, and the town it’s played in.

There’s their great coach, the quietly intense Carl Johnson, who was once a star player on the team himself. A stupid accident with a friend’s shotgun helped squash his potential career. But he came back to help another generation—and as much as he wants them to win games, he wants them to succeed in life, too.

Read the full review here: