Bees Doc Yields a Welcome Gift

The Cummings film is Academy Award-eligible
The last time Jamari Gant showed his mother, Lakisha, a computer, over the Christmas break, it had come to grief. Jack Graves

Jamari Gant, who played on the 2015-16 Bridgehampton High School boys basketball team memorialized in Orson and Ben Cummings’s “Killer Bees” documentary, which is to open in Los Angeles and New York City at the end of this month, was, until Friday, a computer science major at the State University at Fredonia without a computer.

The one he’d had, bought for him by his mother, Lakisha, had come to grief some months ago as he’d fallen asleep on a high-rise bed at college. When he got up the nerve to show her the shattered laptop last Christmas, she, who has been living with Jamari’s five siblings in a Wading River shelter, was at a loss.

Now, thanks to the Bridgehampton School Foundation, whose coffers have grown as more and more well-heeled Bridgehamptoners have seen the little-engine-that-could Killer Bees story they’d known little about, he has one, a state of the art, high-powered, portable Alienware computer programmed for video-gaming, a field that Gant and a college friend, Kermit Mitchell of Uniondale, are hoping to enter.

When he heard of the presentation, Gant said he’d been blown away.

“Don’t let it out of your reach,” Glenn Fuhrman of Sagaponack, the film’s executive producer, said with a smile Friday in handing it over to the appreciative recipient as Orson Cummings, Gant’s former coach Carl Johnson, Johnson’s wife, Lillian Tyree-Johnson, Kat McCleland of the foundation, and Lakisha and Latwana Gant, his aunt, looked on.

McCleland said the foundation had bought the Alienware computer thanks to recent donations. 

“A lot of people are interested in 

making contributions,” McCleland said, adding that some would be used to meet individual needs, such as underwriting college visits, as well as funding programs of benefit to the school body. 

Of his teammates, Gant, who was taken onto the Killer Bees as a first-year senior at the suggestion, Coach Johnson said, of its former star Charles Manning, probably had the diciest childhood inasmuch as his mother, a daughter of the late Henry Gant of East Hampton, was frequently forced to uproot her family because of the South Fork’s soaring rents. 

But despite his pillar-to-post childhood, the quiet-spoken recipient said, in answer to a question, that he had always been determined to go to college.

“He’s the first one in our family to graduate high school, and the first one to go to college,” his mother said proudly. 

Gant, who is 20, and his mother have not lived together for the past two years given that to do so would apparently violate the rules governing the shelter in which she and her five other children, Jaeda, 16, Jordan, 16, Jahvon, 13, Akasha, 12, and Jaylah, 4, live. He now lives in Ronkonkoma with his aunt.

The documentary, one of whose producers is Shaquille O’Neal (another is the art dealer Larry Gagosian), uses the proud Killer Bees basketball tradition (the tiny school has won nine state championships over the years) as a lens through which to view such societal issues as race, income inequality, gentrification, the criminal justice system, politics, education, and a seasonal economy, the Cummings brothers have said.

The film crew followed the team for the better part of a year. “We grew up in this world and we knew it well,” Ben Cummings has said, “and while the time frame is limited to basketball, the film covers pretty much everything that’s going on out here.”

At some “behind the hedgerow” screenings, the filmmakers were interested to learn how few part-time residents knew what the Bees had accomplished over the years — dating to 1946 actually.

“When they learn about the team, the history of the community, and all the wild social and economic diversity in Bridgehampton, they seem stunned,” Orson Cummings said during an interview prior to the premiere at the Hamptons International Film Festival last fall.

It went on to be shown at the Santa Barbara and Sarasota Film Festivals as well, where it was also well received. It has Sports Illustrated’s imprimatur too.

In addition, the film was featured by the Hollywood Reporter this week, and is eligible to be entered in the Academy Awards’ documentary category.

O’Neal says on killerbeesmovie.com: “It’s crazy. I’ve been going to the Hamptons for 20-30 years and I thought the Hamptons was all about rich people. But there’s another side of the Hamptons that you really don’t see. And this team, they’ve been winning championships for the longest time. And it’s a great story. When I saw it I called them up and said, ‘I want to be an executive producer.’ It’s a great film. Check it out.”