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Aug 31, 2017 10:59 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Killer Bees Documentary To Make World Premiere At Hamptons International Film Festival

Ben Cumming, left, now retired Bridgehampton boys basketball head coach Carl Johnson and Orson Cummings. Johnson is the focal point of the Cummings brothers documentary
Sep 5, 2017 5:10 PM

A long-awaited documentary on the Bridgehampton boys basketball team will finally have its moment in the spotlight.

Written and directed by Benjamin and Orson Cummings, brothers who graduated from the Bridgehampton School in the 1980s, “Killer Bees” will make its world premiere next month at the 25th annual Hamptons International Film Festival, which will run from October 5 to 9. An exact date and time for the film’s debut screening was not available this week.

While it focuses on the storied Killer Bees basketball program—which has won nine state championships, a feat that ranks second in New York State, trailing only Mount Vernon—the documentary also touches on issues such as race, income inequality, gentrification, the criminal justice system, politics, education and the seasonal economy in the Hamptons.

Carl Johnson, who won three state titles as a player at Bridgehampton, and four more over his 27-year coaching career with the Killer Bees, is a central figure in the film. Orson Cummings said Mr. Johnson “carries the movie with his incredible story, going back to his playing days.”

Mr. Johnson was a highly touted high school basketball prospect before severely injuring his shooting hand. The injury ended his chances of becoming a college basketball player and, instead, put him on the path of becoming a prominent coach.

Without giving too much away, the 85-minute documentary tells a number of intertwined stories, all of which center on basketball.

“The thing that brings it all together in the end is basketball. Everywhere we went, and everyone we talked to, loved basketball,” Orson Cummings said. “The culture of basketball out here is so rich. Some of the gyms are like cathedrals, but basketball is at the core of the movie.”

Mr. Cummings noted that while locals have been hankering to see the documentary ever since he and his brother were seen filming it in and around Bridgehampton in 2015, the film did not take too long to create.

“We filmed, give or take, a year—from the first day of basketball practice, all throughout their season,” he explained. “We did a lot of interviews, and then we had about six months of editing and lab work. It takes a long time to put it all together, but actually, from beginning to end, this was all done pretty quick.”

Killer Bees is the fourth film written and directed by the Cummings brothers and their first documentary.

The siblings are no strangers to the Hamptons International Film Festival, as “Killer Bees” will be their second film to be screened at the event. Their first, “If I Didn’t Care,” starred the late Roy Scheider; it was released in 2007 and shown at the festival.

The Cummings brothers also wrote and directed “Nine Out Of Ten,” and their latest undertaking, “Blood In The Water,” starring Willa Holland, Alex Russell and Miguel Gomez, is currently streaming on Netflix.

“Killer Bees” was co-produced by NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille “Shaq” O’Neal and Larry Gagosian, an award-winning documentary filmmaker. Shaq came on board, Orson Cummings said, thanks to one of the film’s other executive producers, Glenn Fuhrman. The brothers showed Mr. Fuhrman, who happened to be friends with Shaq, a teaser of their documentary and he was instantly interested.

“He’s going to help us out a lot,” Orson Cummings said of the NBA great, who also screened the flick. “He’s got 12 million Twitter followers, and everyone is on social media these days. He is a huge presence, both literally and figuratively.”

“Killer Bees” will be premiering alongside another basketball documentary, “The First To Do It,” which recounts the life of Earl Lloyd, the first African-American to play in the NBA. Written and directed by Coodie Simmons and Chike Ozah, that film features interviews with current NBA players Carmelo Anthony and Kawhi Leonard, who helped produce the movie, along with Tony Parker, Michael Finley and P.J. Tucker.

Both basketball films are sure to get a good look at next month’s film festival—Mr. Finley, Mr. Tucker, Spencer Haywood and Oscar Robertson are all expected to be in attendance.

Following the premiere, the Cummings brothers will look to get their documentary distributed and, eventually, offered on streaming services such as Netflix. Orson Cummings said the Positive Coaching Alliance, a national organization that strives to ensure that all youth and high school athletes enjoy positive, character-building experiences, has already shown interest in showing the film to its coaches due to Carl Johnson’s involvement in the film.

Though it has always been in the back of their minds, the Cummings brothers acknowledge that it was difficult to get their documentary featured at the Hamptons Film Festival. Thousands of films are submitted each year, and hundreds are denied for every one accepted.

Orson Cummings says that while having some connections helps, they only go so far.

“To be fair to the festival … it’s all about the film quality,” he said. “They have to respond to the movie—that really is the deciding factor.

“The entire film really covers a lot,” he continued, referring to his documentary. “We grew up in Bridgehampton. We went to school there, and the festival is always looking for things that are going to resonate and this does. We always felt like our film would be a good fit and we’re really glad it worked out.”

For more information about the upcoming festival, visit hamptonsfilmfest.org.

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