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Review: ‘Killer Bees’ doc shows high school basketball in the Hamptons is not what you'd expect

Review: ‘Killer Bees’ doc shows high school basketball in the Hamptons is not what you'd expect
A scene from the documentary "Killer Bees." (Brothers Cummings Film / Double Exposure)

The “Killer Bees” of this modest, appealing sports documentary aren’t competitive apiarists but rather a high school basketball team in that New York enclave of moneyed celebrity, the Hamptons. And yet there’s one more layer of presumptiveness to penetrate: This isn’t a squad of rich kids — the mixed-race Bridgehampton High, and its mostly black basketball team, represent the year-round townsfolk who live, literally, on the other side of the tracks from the oft-publicized vacation-home wealth.

Directors Orson and Ben Cummings followed a winning year for the small high school’s championship basketball program, which we learn arose out of an athletics-driven child care center set up generations ago for the offspring of migrant potato farmers. We also learn that this is a high school repeatedly under threat of closure by the forces of gentrification, racism and a widening income gap, which puts an added dose of pressure on the student players to keep the Bees winning games year after year.

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The political side of the movie is unfortunately more like a glancing element than a delved issue — the story of a mid-’80s protest against shutting down the school feels undersold, and repeated cutaways to a comically oblivious high-end real estate broker showing off ostentatious homes feels obvious rather than illuminating. But the bread and butter of good kids with talent and dreams, a committed coach, loyal followers and game footage does the expected task of charming us into becoming new fans, wherever we are.

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‘Killer Bees’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica

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