Friday, October 17, 2008

Week of October 17 to October 23 (Phil Mann)

What’s On At The Tropic
by Phil Mann

It isn’t often that you’ll see Queen Latifah at the Tropic. But the “First Lady of Hip-Hop,” strides with gusto into the lead role in THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES. She already has one Oscar nomination, for her supporting role in the musical Chicago. But Secret Life is a very different pot of honey. Though blessed with a triumvirate of songsters -- Alicia Keys and Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson, along with Ms. Latifah -- Secret Life is not a musical, but a black-dominated drama set in South Carolina in 1964. The main white character is fourteen-year-old Dakota Fanning.

Based on the bestselling novel by Sue Monk Kidd, it’s the story of Lily (Fanning), who is running from an abusive father, accompanied by her caregiver (Hudson). She seeks out the hometown of her deceased mother, where she is taken in by the Boatwright sisters -- Latifah, Keys and Sophie Okonedo (Oscar nominee for Hotal Rwanda) -- who raise bees and, despite the time and place, dominate their landscape. Through them Lily learns the meaning of love. The civil rights issues are there, earning the novel a place on many school reading lists next to To Kill A Mockingbird, but the message about what it takes to make a family is universal.

The Oscar buzz has already started for several of the film’s cast. The director Gina Prince-Bythewood is also young and African-American, following up her Independent Spirit Award winning Love and Basketball. In interviews cast members talk about how Prince-Bythewood brought them together out of devotion to the novel, getting them to slash their salaries to make it happen. The director describes their feeling when Obama won the South Carolina primary while they were in the midst of filming in North Carolina. They realized, she says, that they “weren't just making a movie about a girl and the nurturing women who aided her,” they were "making a film about a time when the world was changing, at a time when the world is changing."

Maybe it’s time now for all of us to go see it.

Race is also at the core of the documentary, TROUBLE THE WATER. Amateur videographers Kimberly Rivers Roberts and her husband Scott covered Hurricane Katrina with a cheap camera bought on the street, and a sensibility bred from watching TV news shows. With this pair and their footage at the center, documentarians Carl Deal and Tia Lessin (Fahrenheit 911) have fashioned a movie that says “captures a tale of courage, heroism and tragedy more thrilling than any Hollywood spectacle.” Some of the Wilma-esque hurricane footage will be all-to-familiar to Key Westers. The movie however is also about the aftermath and resurgence in the black Ninth Ward, making it “a powerful political argument, backed by evidence provided by the shaming indifference of the government, that to be poor and black in America is to be an exile,” according to the New York Times. It’s like “we lost our citizenship,” Ms. Roberts says.

On the Special Events calendar, Hitchcock’s NOTORIOUS is the Monday night classic. And the GLCC is conducting a free Breast Cancer Awareness Forum on Wednesday night. THE DUCHESS also continues her crowd pleasing run for those hooked on British historical drama.

It’s going to be quite a week at the Tropic.

Full details at Comments to
[from Key West, the Newspaper -]

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