HOPE IN THE HAMPTONS!

August 25, 2018 at 4:45 am

Shaquille O’Neal introduces us to the documentary “Killer Bees.” The film tells the story of the Bridgehampton High School basketball team, winners on the basketball court, and a symbol of hope for its Hamptons community, where discrimination, gentrification and massive income inequality are a way of life.

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Chasing the Dream: Poverty and Opportunity in America is a multi-platform public media initiative that provides a deeper understanding of the impact of poverty on American society. Major funding for this initiative is provided by The JPB Foundation. Additional funding is provided by Ford Foundation.

Aired on August 24, 2018.

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>>> THIS SEGMENT IS PART OF OUR
CHASING THE DREAM INITIATIVE ON
POVERTY AND OPPORTUNITY IN
AMERICA.
FROM PRODUCER SHAQUILLE O'NEILL
COMES THE DOCUMENTARY KILLER
BEES THAT TELLS THE STORY OF A
BASKETBALL TEAM THAT DEFIES
TYPICAL STEREOTYPES OF THE
HAMPTONS, LED BY THEIR
INSPIRATIONAL COACH, THE TEAM
PREPARES TO DEFEND THEIR STATE
CHAMPIONSHIP, THEIR FIGHTING
SPIRIT HAS SINCE BECOME A SYMBOL
OF HOPE FOR A COMMUNITY
STRUGGLING TO SURVIVE, AMONG
OTHER THINGS, RACIAL
DISCRIMINATION, GENTRIFICATION,
AND ABSURD INCOME INEQUALITY IN
ONE OF THE WEALTHIEST
NEIGHBORHOODS IN THE COUNTRY.
>> THERE'S LEGITIMATELY A
SOCIOECONOMIC DIVIDE NORTH OF
THE TRACKS AND SOUTH OF THE
TRACKS.
>> THEY'VE BEEN TRYING TO CLOSE
THAT SCHOOL DOWN FOR YEARS AND
YEARS.
AND YET WE STAY TRUE TO WHAT HAS
GOTTEN US HERE.
>> ONE OF THE REASONS THE SCHOOL
WILL NOT CLOSE IS THAT WE HAVE A
WINNING BASKETBALL TEAM.
>> KEEP MOVING, ALL RIGHT?
>> AND HERE WITH MORE NOW ABOUT
THE FILM IS FORMER BRIDGE
HAMPTON BASKETBALL COACH CARL
JOHNSON, AND PRODUCERS AND
DIRECTORS BEN AND ORSON
CUMMINGS.
GENTLEMEN, WELCOME TO ALL OF
YOU.
>> THANKS FOR HAVING US.
>> IT'S A GREAT FILM.
I WATCHED IT LAST NIGHT.
I'M A FORMER ATHLETE, SO I LOVE
THE SPORTS FILMS.
THIS IS SO MUCH MORE THAN A
SPORTS FILM, SO MUCH MORE THAN A
BASKETBALL FILM.
LET ME ASK YOU FIRST, YOU GUYS
HAVE BEEN VERY SUCCESSFUL IN
YOUR FILMAKING CAREERS, WHAT
DREW YOU TO THIS?
>> WE GREW UP IN BRIDGE HAMPTON,
WENT THERE, WENT THROUGH THE
BASKETBALL PROGRAM.
A COUPLE SUMMERS AGO, THE WAY I
REMEMBER IT, I GOT A FACEBOOK
MESSAGE FROM COACH CARL AND A
CLASSMATE OF MINE, SAYING YOU
GUYS ARE FILM MAKERS, YOU KNOW
ALL ABOUT THE BEES.
THINGS ARE CHANGING SWIFTLY OUT
HERE.
THIS CULTURE MAY NOT BE AROUND
MUCH LONGER, IF YOU GUYS ARE
INTERESTED, IT'S BEST DO IT
SOONER RATHER THAN LATER.
>> THEN WHAT DID YOU DO?
HERE'S AN IDEA.
I'M SURE YOU'RE GIVEN ALL SORTS
OF IDEAS FROM ALL SORTS OF
SOURCES REGULARLY DOING WHAT YOU
DO.
WHAT WAS THE NEXT STEP?
>> WE ONLY MADE NARRATIVE
FEATURES BEFORE, HADN'T DONE A
DOCUMENTARY.
WE WERE A LITTLE CAUTIOUS, WE'D
HEARD THE STORIES OF HOOP
DREAMS, SOMEONE WENT IN AND I'LL
MAKE A MOVIE, TEN YEARS LATER
YOU'RE STILL WORKING ON IT.
WE HAD COFFEE MEETINGS, CALLED A
FEW FRIENDS, WENT FOR COFFEE,
WE'RE THINKING OF TELLING THIS
STORY AND TOLD THEM WHAT IT WAS
ABOUT.
EVERYONE WE SPOKE SO SAID YOU
HAVE TO DO THAT, TOO GOOD A
STORY.
IT WAS AN INCREDIBLE REACTION,
NEVER GOT A REACTION LIKE THAT.
>> I WANT TO TALK ABOUT HOW
DIFFERENT THIS PLACE IS NOW FROM
WHEN YOU WERE THERE.
BUT BEFORE I DO THAT, CARL, LET
ME ASK YOU, SO WHEN YOU WERE
FIRST APPROACHED ABOUT THE IDEA
OF DOING A FILM ABOUT NOT JUST
YOUR TEAM, BUT THE SCHOOL, THE
COMMUNITY, WHAT WAS YOUR VERY
FIRST REACTION TO IT?
>> SOMEWHAT APPREHENSIVE ABOUT
IT BECAUSE NOW YOU'RE ASKING THE
KIDS TO OPEN UP THEIR PERSONAL
LIFE.
YOU'RE ASKING THE SCHOOL TO OPEN
UP THEIR PERSONAL LIFE.
AND SOME PEOPLE JUST --
>> ASKING YOU TO OPEN UP YOUR
PERSONAL LIFE.
>> YES, DEFINITELY, TO OPEN UP
MY PERSONAL LIFE AND WHERE DO WE
GO FROM THERE, AND DO I FEEL
COMFORTABLE ABOUT THAT?
SOME KIDS ARE GOING THROUGH
THEIR SENIOR YEAR OF HIGH
SCHOOL, THE PRESSURE OF TRYING
TO DEFEND THE STATE TITLE, AND
ALSO ALL THE OTHER KIND OF
THINGS THAT SOME KIDS WEREN'T
COMFORTABLE ABOUT OPENING UP.
SO AT FIRST I WAS REAL
APPREHENSIVE.
BUT THEN AGAIN, THERE'S A STORY
TO BE TOLD AND IT SHOULD BE
TOLD.
>> HOW DID YOU GET -- BECAUSE
I'M SURE YOU TALK ABOUT HOOP
DREAMS, THERE ARE A LOT OF GREAT
SPORTS DOCUMENTARIES OUT THERE.
BUT A LOT OF THEM ARE -- FOCUS
REALLY ON THE SPORT ITSELF AND
THE GAMES AND THE QUEST FOR A
CHAMPIONSHIP.
BUT THIS BECAME SO MUCH MORE.
DID YOU KNOW GOING INTO IT THAT
THIS WAS GOING TO BECOME WHAT IT
ULTIMATELY BECAME?
>> YES.
THAT WAS -- WE WENT INTO THE
KITCHEN IN BRIDGE HAMPTON,
WAITING FOR CARL FOR THE FIRST
TIME, WE WERE GOING TO DISCUSS
WHAT WE WERE -- WHAT WE WERE UP
TO, AND WE WERE LIKE, WELL,
WE'RE GOING TO ASK CARL, IS IT
OKAY IF WE EXAMINE A WHOLE BUNCH
OF THESE OTHER ISSUES, HOW DO
YOU THINK REALLY REACT?
WE POSED THE QUESTION TO CARL,
AND HE'S LIKE, I KIND OF FIGURED
THAT WAS THE POINT.
>> SO GOING INTO IT, THERE ARE A
COUPLE THINGS I'M STRUCK BY.
ONE IS, I WENT TO -- WE WERE
TALKING ABOUT THIS BEFORE.
I WENT TO A TINY HIGH SCHOOL, 90
SOME KIDS IN MY SENIOR CLASS.
WE HAD A VERY PROUD ATHLETIC
TRADITION.
IT WAS SO SMALL, AND THERE WERE
A LOT OF TALKS ABOUT CLOSING IT
UP, MERGING WITH SOMEBODY ELSE.
THERE'S BEEN A HISTORY OF THAT
HERE.
HOW DIFFERENT IS THE SCHOOL AND
THE COMMUNITY NOW FROM WHEN YOU
GUYS WERE THERE AS STUDENTS?
>> WELL, IT WAS MORE
AFRICAN-AMERICAN PREDOMINANTLY
WHEN WE GREW UP THERE.
AND I THINK SINCE IT'S
DEFINITELY --
>> BECOME A LITTLE MORE DIVERSE.
WE HAVE OUR -- WE HAVE LATINOS,
WHITES AND BLACKS.
IT'S BECOME A LOT DIFFERENT.
>> WHY HAS IT CHANGED, DO YOU
THINK?
>> I THINK, YOU KNOW, OUR SCHOOL
REALLY WAS -- PEOPLE PRE-JUDGED
IT BEFORE THEY EVEN DECIDED TO
STEP IN TO COME SEE THE SCHOOL.
THERE WAS ALL THESE LITTLE
RUMORS SAY, OH, IT'S THIS, IT'S
THAT.
WHEN THEY GET THERE, THEY FIND
OUT, OH, THIS IS A REALLY NICE
SCHOOL.
BASICALLY WITH A PUBLIC SCHOOL
EDUCATION, YOU GET THE PRIVATE
SCHOOL.
>> IT'S A BEAUTIFUL LOOKING
SCHOOL.
PEOPLE WILL SEE THIS WHEN THEY
DO IT, YOU AS FILM MAKERS, I'M
SURE, APPRECIATED THAT, THE
VISUAL QUALITIES.
>> ONE THING, TOUCHING ON THE
CHANGING DEMOGRAPHICS.
IT'S REALLY POSITIVE, A PERFECT
EXAMPLE OF AMERICA FUNCTIONING
WELL, WHITE AND BLACK AND LATIN
ALL TOGETHER.
PEOPLE GETTING ALONG.
IT ALSO REFLECTS THE
GENTRIFICATION, THE TURNPIKE
WHERE AFRICAN-AMERICAN PEOPLE
LIVED A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE
LEAVING, IT'S THE HAMPTONS,
THEY'LL SELL, AND THEN PUT UP A
MANSION, A SPECULATIVE REAL
ESTATE PROPERTY.
>> WHEN YOU WATCH THIS, THE
WONDERFUL JOB YOU DID SORT OF
INTERCUTING, YOU KNOW, THE
HAMPTONS AND THE GREAT WEALTH OF
THE HAMPTONS AND THE
OSTENTATIOUS LIFESTYLE OF THE
HAMPTONS, HERE ARE SOME GUYS
HARD WORKING, KIDS ON A
BASKETBALL TEAM, AND IT'S ALMOST
HARD TO IMAGINE THAT IT'S --
YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT THE SAME
TOWN GOING ON HERE.
>> YEAH, BASICALLY -- YEAH, IT'S
JUST --
>> HOW DO THE KIDS HANDLE THAT?
>> ONE DAY THERE'S $250 MILLION
MANSION ON THE BEACH.
AS THE CROW FLIES, YOU KNOW, 30
SECONDS AWAY THERE'S A KID ON
THE TEAM BEING EVICTED FROM HIS
HOUSE, FROM THIS LITTLE HOUSE ON
THE TURNPIKE.
AND IT'S HARD TO FATHOM.
>> IT'S A LOT OF THE SAME ISSUES
THAT THE COUNTRY IS FACING, THE
DISAPPEARANCE OF THE MIDDLE
CLASS, BUT IN THE HAMPTONS IT IS
SO EXTREME, SO EXTREME.
>> BECAUSE YOU'VE SEEN SOME
GENTRIFICATION SITUATIONS WHERE
IT'S GETTING BETTER, A LITTLE
BETTER, AS IT GETS A LITTLE
BETTER IT MAKES THE QUALITY OF
THE EDUCATION A LITTLE BETTER,
PUT MORE MONEY INTO IT, BUT HERE
IT'S LIKE A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT
WORLD.
>> WELL, YOU DO HAVE THOSE
MANSIONS, THOSE $14 MANSIONS $20
MILLION MANSIONS.
PEOPLE THAT LIVE THERE ARE ONLY
THERE FOR THE SUMMER.
THEIR KIDS DON'T GO TO SCHOOL
THERE YEAR ROUND.
>> I DON'T WANT TO GIVE UP TOO
MUCH OF THIS.
I WANT PEOPLE TO WATCH IT.
IT IS WONDERFUL.
WHAT DO KIDS THINK ABOUT THE
IDEA OF BEING FEATURED IN A
FILM, AND THEN WHAT DID THEY
THINK ABOUT IT WHEN THEY SAW IT
AFTERWARDS?
>> THEY REALLY LOVED THE MOVIE.
THEY WERE EXCITED ABOUT IT, YOU
KNOW, AND I ALWAYS TELL THEM,
YOU KNOW, DON'T LET ANYONE TELL
YOU WHAT TO THINK.
YOU GO THERE AND JUDGE IT FOR
YOURSELF.
WHATEVER YOU FEEL, STICK WITH
IT.
DON'T EVER TRY TO, YOU KNOW, BE
PERSUADED LIKE, SAY, OH, INSIDE
YOU WOULD LIKE IT, OUTSIDE,
SOMEONE TELL YOU, NO, I DON'T
LIKE IT.
I GOT POSITIVE FEEDBACK FROM ALL
THE KIDS THAT WERE FEATURED IN
THE FILM.
SO I WAS VERY PLEASED.
>> LAST QUESTION FOR YOU, WE
TALKED ABOUT SHAQUILLE O'NEILL'S
INVOLVEMENT IN THIS.
TELL ME ABOUT THAT.
>> WE WERE LUCKY ENOUGH TO HAVE
A GREAT EXECUTIVE PRODUCER NAMES
GLEN FURMAN WHO HAS A FOUNDATION
CALLED THE FLAG ART FOUNDATION
BASED IN NEW YORK AND HE HAD
SHAQUILLE O'NEILL, WHO WE GOT TO
MEET, CURATE A SHOW, SO WE
BECAME FRIENDS WITH HIM THERE,
SHAQ GOES BY SHAQASSO.
WE SHOWED HIM AN EARLY -- HE
SHOWED IT TO SHAQ, AND HE WATCD
IT AND SIGNED UP RIGHT AWAY.
HE'S BEEN A TERRIFIC HELP.
>> NOT JUST HIS PHYSICAL
PRESENCE, BUT JUST WHO HE IS AND
WHERE HE COMES FROM.
>> YEAH, BUT THAT'S FUNNY, WE
WERE -- SHAQ HAD A CONVERSATION,
AND HE'S LIKE, COACH, AND HE
CALLED ME COACH, HE'S LIKE I
CAME FROM A SCHOOL I GRADUATED
WITH 39 KIDS IN MY CLASS.
SO HE KNOWS WHAT IT FEELS LIKE
TO BE IN A SMALL SCHOOL AND NOT
TO -- AND TO HAVE THAT KIND OF
PRIDE, THAT SENSE OF PRIDE, LIKE
THAT BURNING FEELING INSIDE, I
DON'T CARE WHO WE GO UP AGAINST,
WE'RE GOING TO WIN.
HE HAS THAT BURNING.
THAT'S CAUSED HIM TO BE THE
SUCCESS HE'S BEEN AS WELL.
>> IT'S A GREAT JOB OF STORY
TELLING.
YOU KNOW AS STORY TELLERS YOU
NEED TO HAVE PEOPLE, YOU'RE
TELLING THEIR STORIES.
AND COACH, YOU KNOW, A WONDERFUL
ROLE IN THE LIVES OF THESE KIDS.
SO IT'S GOING TO JOIN THAT
PANTHEON OF REALLY GOOD
SPORTS/MUCH MORE STORIES.
YOU SHOULD ALL BE PROUD OF WHAT
YOU DID HERE.
>> THANKS VERY MUCH.
>> IT WAS A DELIGHT AND FUN TO
WATCH, BY THE WAY.
A REMINDER, FOR MORE INFORMATION
ON WHERE YOU CAN WATCH "KILLER
BEES," VISIT OUR WEBSITE AT
METROFOCUS.ORG.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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