The Secret’s Out

Gina Prince-Bythewood, screenwriter and director of The Secret Life of Bees, discusses her latest film and what it takes to change black film for the better.

Getty Images
Getty Images

For countless black moviegoers, Love & Basketball remains a classic. Complete with relatable black leads and an emotional, yet realistic plotline, the film plays for your heart and wins. But this triumph isn’t without tremendous effort. The film, which debuted in 2000, was a labor of love for screenwriter and director Gina Prince-Bythewood, rife with studio rejections and struggles to battle the stereotypes abundant in mainstream productions.

Her latest project, The Secret Life of Bees, debuts in theaters today andwas just as difficult to get on screen. Still, Prince-Bythewood insists that the opportunity to bring Sue Monk Kidd’s best-selling novel to the silver screen was truly a gift. Set during the 1960s in the racially charged South, the complex tale of frail Lily Owens and her strong-minded caregivers, the Boatwright sisters, is carefully woven and gently unfurled for viewers.

The all-star cast includes Queen Latifah, Sophie Okonedo and Alicia Keys who portray the fiercely independent August, May and June Boatwright. Along side this trio—and rounding out the film’s powerful female circle—are Dakota Fanning as Lily Owens and Jennifer Hudson as headstrong Rosaleen Daise. Each actress delivers a captivating performance and a magnetic emotional arc, but it was Prince-Bythewood who brought their characters to life, both on script and on camera.

Armed with a laid-back demeanor and optimistic outlook, Prince-Bythewood’s passion for filmmaking is something she refuses to compromise. The Root sat down with this award-winning director to discuss the development of BEES, lessons learned since Love & Basketball and how hard it can be to bring positive black images to the silver screen.

Saaret E. Yoseph: What drew you to this project?