Saturday, April 24, 2010

Gina Prince-Bythewoods

In my attempt to find women directors and/or screenwriters, I came across a similar problem, which occurs when I am absorbing media, and when I am learning about women issues: a relatable minority woman! So in my research I sought out to find not just a woman director, but also an African-American woman or a Hispanic woman; someone who is breaking gender and race obstacles.

I found her, her name is Gina Prince-Bythewood and she is an African-American film director and screen writer. Gina Prince-Bythewood has also acted in some of the movies that she has written, and produced. Gina Prince-Bythewood attended UCLA where she studied film and graduated in 1991. Her love of movies is accredited to her passion of reading. What is most interesting about Gina Prince-Bythewood is that she has directed films and TV episodes that are well recognized, for instance, she wrote and directed “Love and Basketball” in 2000, which was viewed at the Sundance Film Festival. Her other works range from: “Biker Boys” in 2003, she worked on Felicity, The Bernie Mac Show, Friends, A Different World. She has also won an NAACP Image Award and was nominated for an Emmy in recognition of her work in television.

A lot of Gina Prince-Bythewood’s films are Hollywood movies, her most recently acclaimed film is “The Secret Life of Bees” which she directed and wrote in 2008. As an Auteur Gina Prince-Bythewood’s films, focusing more on “The Secret Life of Bees” and “Love and Basketball” demonstrate the obstacles and hardships the individuals had to overcome in order to follow their dreams and fall in love too. In “Love and Basketball”, she develops a dynamic love story between both female and male protagonist, in the middle of the film the lovers separate and go in search of their dreams. However, what makes this film different from others is that when the lovers come together, the woman does not give up her dreams for the man. Instead they get married, have a baby and she pursues her dreams in the WNBA while, her husband becomes a stay at home dad after a knee injury destroys his NBA dreams. As a female Auteur her films depict love; heterosexual love stories different from other Hollywood films. Her love stories incorporate hard decisions and social obstacles that interfere in the relationship, nonetheless the woman is not the only one making compromises. She represents the woman as strong, independent, and equal to her male lover. In “Love and Basketball” Omar Epps and Sanaa Lathan are drawn together not by physical chemistry, but because of their shared passion for

A New York Times movie review article states that the movie is a bit melodramatic; the author criticizes the familiar and predictability of the plot; yet he also states that the focus on small details allows the romantic plot to be successful and different from other romantic films. It’s Prince-Bythewood’s sense of auteur, which allows the film to stand out and be unique. Prince-Bythewood’s intertwines a love story with family, and societal conflicts. Sanaa Lathan’s character has to deal with making her dreams come true, while forming a successful relationship with her childhood friend, all while she is fighting conventional gender roles in basketball and in her family. The author of the movie critique mentions a scene in the movie where Sanaa Lathan’s character is attending prom and she cannot walk in heels, he states that there are many scenes and details that poke at the idea of conventional femininity (Mitchell 2000).

The Auteur theory by Maggie Humm can be related to Gina Prince-Bythewood’s work through the examination of Prince-Bythewood’s techniques and major focus on details that help emphasize a female perspective on the themes of her movie and TV episodes. Gina Prince-Bythewood’s films are examples that gender definitely shapes signature and that gender makes a difference in perspective, especially in films (Humm 110). For example, if “Love and Basketball” would’ve been written by a man, it would be hard to imagine the last scene in the movie where Omar Epp’s character is sitting on the benches with his daughter, watching his wife Sanaa Lathan play in the WNBA.

Works Cited

Mitchell, Elvis. "Love & Basketball (2000) Film Review United & Divided by the Basketball Hoop." The New York Times. 21 Apr. 2000. Web. 24 Apr. 2010.

Knox, Mikaela. "F06 :: Feminist Film Studies: 4. Women "of Color" Filmmakers Archives." UThink: Blogs at the University of Minnesota. Web. 24 Apr. 2010.

"Gina Prince-Bythewood '91: "The Secret Life of Bees"" UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. 20 Oct. 2008. Web. 24 Apr. 2010. <>.

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