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IT WAS REAL, BUT I GOT SICK AND ALL THE HAIR FELL OUT.
AKEELAH AND THE BEE
TIM PETERS • STAFF WRITER
SYD SLOBODNIK • STAFF WRITER
parents, almost every predictable obstacle is set up in this film only to be miraculously cleared by fortuitous coincidences and improbable changes of heart. By the end, it seems all of southern Los Angeles has united in happy harmony to cheer on their spelling savior. By trying to cram in so many problems and solutions, much of the dialogue becomes perfunctory and unnatural. Worse, despite such talents, the acting comes off as unconvincing because the characters and scenes are often so incredible. The archetype of the child prodigy is nothing new to cinema. Even the idea of a talented, young speller is not novel — consider the successful 2002 documentary Spellbound. These stories of ambitious children work when their young protagonists’ idealism and innocence must reckon with pragmatic and harsh adult realities. Akeelah and the Bee fails to transcend as anything more than escapist family fare because that harsh reality is missing. It’s a matter of one word, and surely this f ilm’s protagonist could spell it, though her story lacked it: V-E-R-I-S-I-M-I-L-I-T-U-D-E.
sotsi, the well deserved Oscar winning best foreign language film of 2005 offers film-goers a rare view of authentic African culture and social drama. Based on a novel by famed South African playwright Athol Fugard, and adapted to the screen by writer/director Gavin Hood, it concerns a violent week-in-thelife of a nineteen-year-old Soweto street thug and his eventual wish for redemption. Tsotsi will immediately remind viewers of the recent Brazilian film City of God, but older film buffs will likely find its story more reminiscent of Perry Henzell’s 1972 cult classic The Harder They Come, the tale of a Jamaican singer/outlaw, and even John Ford’s 1948 film The Three Godfathers, about three bandits who shepherd an orphaned baby across the desert Southwest. Tsotsi is a powerful film about a troubled youth, named Tsotsi, a nickname meaning “thug,” played by Presley Chweneyagae, who was raised by an abusive father and a sickly mother. Tsotsi spends his days on the streets of Johannesburg stealing and subjecting violence on innocent victims; at night, he returns to the squalid ghetto of Soweto Township. One day after being criticized by
fellow gang member for his ruthlessness and lack of decency, Tsotsi brutally beats his friend and begins his journey of self-examination. After carjacking and seriously wounding a wealthy black South African woman, Tsotsi discovers he’s inadvertently kidnapped the woman’s infant son. For several days the young thug tries reluctantly to care for the child finding he can’t just abandon or kill the innocent. Troubled conflicts with a crippled street beggar and a young mother, who’s nursing her own infant son, helps Tsotsi realize what doing the right thing is. Director Hood tells this simple but moving tale with a smooth musical background and occasional haunting flashbacks of Tsotsi’s early life. Shooting in mostly dark film noir-like visual style, Hood creates a mood of desperation and heartrending emotion of not only a criminal on the run, but the baby’s parents waiting for the police to track down their kidnapped boy. Using authentic Xhosa, Zulu, and Afrikaans languages, Tsotsi provides a unique perspective on post-Apartheid life and became the first Oscar winning film from an African nation since the 1976 Ivory Coast film Black and White in Color.
LIONS GATE FILMS
ow do you spell “sentimentalism?” How about “hackneyed plot?” Try this one: “profit-driven family fluff ?” The answer: A-K-E-E-L-A-H. Akeelah and the Bee, writer/director Doug Atchison’s portrait of a young girl’s spelling bee conquests, is an effusive fantasy whose unbelievable narrative shortcuts are redeemed only by a syrupy-sweet, everyone’s-a-winner conclusion. The story centers on the bespectacled title character, Akeelah Anderson, whose 11-yearold emotions are perpetually fixed on the face of actress Keke Palmer. She lives in downtrodden southern L.A. with her worn, nurse mother (Angela Bassett). Despite skipping classes, Akeelah can ace her spelling tests without studying. Her principal, Mr. Welch (Curtis Armstrong), believes she could advance to the national bee and bring attention and windfall funding to their struggling school. As she advances through the stages of the spelling bee circuit, conf lict keeps deterring Akeelah. From an obstinate mother to teasing peers, a disillusioned mentor to racist, cheating
ALEELAH AND THE BEE • LEE THOMPSON YOUNG
ARTIST’S CORNER CONTINUED FROM PG. # 15
Our (my business partner and I) goal is to establish, through the magazine and our marketing efforts, Vaccine as an art lifestyle brand. Hopefully, a simple uncluttered format and intriguing content will draw like-minded persons towards the brand. What goes into starting up a new magazine? Is it more difficult than you thought?
It’s always harder than you think, you need time, money, and passion. We have the time now, and have always had the passion, the money is the tricky part were working on. What is on the horizon for you — either artistically or in life (or both)?
TSOTSI • KENNETH NKOSI, PRESLEY CHWENEYAGAE, ZENZO NGQOBE & MOTHUSI MAGANO
Whether with my magazine, my job, or my volunteer efforts, I have found myself continuously trying to create a place where other talents can flourish. I always find it such a disappointment that there is so much talent out there that never reaches the light of day. My opportunities in my professional life are to create opportunities for others. Once it is off the ground, will you solicit contributors to the magazine? How should people contact you?
My curators will be in charge of collecting submissions. In the meantime, persons can reach me via email at email@example.com, or you can also sign up for our mailing list at our website: vaccineart.com Final interview questions are always lame. Mine is no different. Give me three words that DO NOT describe you.
Boring, cluttered, and stale. sounds from the scene
Tell me about Vaccine and what makes it unique. Why and how do you think the art community will embrace it?
TSOTSI • ORPHANS IN SOWETO
INTRO | A ROUND TOWN | L ISTEN, HEAR | CU CALENDAR | STAGE , S CREEN &
B ETWEEN | CLASSIFIEDS | THE STINGER
Published on May 4, 2006