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Film Reviews: Killer Bees

This documentary chronicles the wins and losses of a hard-luck team in an upscale town.

By Stephen Whitty Jul 26, 2018

 

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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.

Photo by Hilary McHone

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 Bumblebees—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.

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