Thursday, May 04, 2006

Akeelah and the Bee

Before the customary discussion about how another “good” film marketed toward African Americans/featuring African Americans went unsupported at theatres gets underway, I would like to encourage people to check out Akeelah and the Bee this weekend. I got a chance to see it on Sunday and it was a really enjoyable film. What struck me about it is how the writers tried bringing the adage “it takes a village to raise a child” to life. Rather than letting the young protagonist become overwhelmed by her burgeoning success—Akeelah and the Beeshows us there is another option. The film captured very well the heavy price for success that young African-Americans are sometimes expected to pay when suddenly thrust in front of cameras/microphones and distracted from being able maintain the sense of order and discipline in our lives that made the success possible in the first place.

Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett do well in this film, but admittedly these are roles that both actors could pull off with their eyes closed. The young woman Keke Palmer is the true star (as well as a dead ringer for a pre-teen Angela Bassett). Palmer does an excellent job of being nerdy/silly/confident/vulnerable—in a word—she performs the frailty of strength that childhood embodies really well. Not to be outdone are J.R. Villarreal, who plays Javier another one of the spelling bee contestants who quickly befriends Akeelah, and Sahara Garey (Georgia) Akeelah’s best friend in her South Central neighborhood. Villareal and Garey help anchor Palmer in the two worlds she has to navigate.

It’s a great film to not only take your kids/younger siblings/mentees to see, but also one to really sit down and talk with them over whether they understand what happened on screen. The lessons imparted in Akeelah and the Bee will also resonate with adults seeking to revive their connections to their communities and a younger generation that is not as foreign or as “insolent” as adults often presume.

After checking out Akeelah and the Bee make a date to watch 2002’s Spellbound, the documentary from which it draws its inspiration, if you have not seen it.

And again, if you do not check out Akeelah and the Bee while its in theatres you are exponentially increasing the likelihood that you will have to engage/suffer another discussion about lack of support for positive images of African-Americans within the next month.

Also, if you check it out, leave a comment so that I could know what you thought about it--this way I'll know whether to keep future movie recommendations to myself.


Alice B. said...

Thanks Nightshift,
I have to say I've always had a kneejerk reaction that is not very favorable to spelling contests. I didn't go see Akeelah because I wasn't sure I'd enjoy watching children thust into mindless competition over words that people don't even use in dissertations. But admittedly the reviews have been good.

Anonymous said...

i saw this film on this past thursday. though it was definitely forced at many a moment, i found it to be worth the view much more of the time, and, yeah, highly conducive to quality discussion. i adored the smitten javier, and, after the flick, i also felt like dusting off my beloved jumprope :o). i wish that my nieces were old enough to see it and may just drag a teen cousin. ~leslie w.

Anonymous said...

My sister called me about this film the other night. It really moved her. However, that is not saying much considering both she and I tend to be very emotional. But hearing her testimonial and yours does make me want to go out and see it.

-- Elvita D.

Anonymous said...

Super color scheme, I like it! Good job. Go on.