AFI Movie Club: THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES – American Film Institute
The Secret Life of Bees Film Still - Queen Latifah and Dakota Fanning



Written and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES follows a young girl who searches for the truth about her dead mother while befriending a family of beekeepers. The film’s producer Jada Pinkett Smith is on AFI’s Board of Trustees, and Prince-Bythewood has previously served as an Artist in Residence for AFI’s Directing Workshop for Women.

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Watch THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES writer/director Gina Prince-Bythewood talk about listening to your instincts in this exclusive clip from the AFI Archive.


DID YOU KNOW? The film is an adaptation of Sue Monk Kidd’s critically acclaimed debut novel, “The Secret of Life of Bees.” 

DID YOU KNOW? Dakota Fanning, Tristan Wilds and Queen Latifah all went to “bee school.” A trainer was brought in to coach them on how to handle themselves in the apiary, since all three actors had to work in the Black Madonna hives, gathering honey while real bees swarmed around them. 

DID YOU KNOW? Producer Lauren Shuler Donner brought on Dakota Fanning even before Gina Prince-Bythewood came on board. Though Fanning was only 11, Donner was convinced she could play older. However, it took so long to get the financing together for the film that Fanning was almost 14 – exactly the same age as her character Lily – by the time production wrapped. 

DID YOU KNOW? Alicia Keys learned to play the cello in four weeks for the role of June Boatwright. 

DID YOU KNOW? THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES producer Jada Pinkett Smith originally intended to play the role of June (eventually performed by Alicia Keys), but she ultimately had a scheduling conflict with her own directorial debut, THE HUMAN CONTRACT. 

DID YOU KNOW? The movie earned a People’s Choice Award for Favorite Dramatic Movie and an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Motion Picture. 

DID YOU KNOW? THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES has also been adapted into a stage musical. Vassar College’s Powerhouse Theater and New York Stage and Film presented a workshop production of it, which starred Uzo Aduba (ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK) in the role of Rosaleen. The show featured music from Tony Award® winner Duncan Sheik and a book by Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage.   

Learn more at the AFI Catalog.

The movie doesn’t end at the credits: Family-friendly Discussion Questions

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-Had you read Sue Monk Kidd’s novel before seeing the film? What did you think of the movie adaptation? What creative differences were there between the book and movie version? What purpose did these changes serve? 

-How do you think Kidd’s own experiences growing up in Georgia informed her writing? 

-The film is set in South Carolina in 1964. What was the political climate like in the U.S. at the time? What was the significance of the Civil Rights Act, which passed in 1964? 

-Why do you think Lily is the main protagonist? How would the story change if it were another character, such as Rosaleen? 

-What is the symbolism of bees and the beehive throughout the movie? 

-Lily Owens cherishes a box with the few remaining items that belonged to her mother. What is Lily’s relationship to her dead mother and how does it evolve throughout the film? 

-What is the significance of Rosaleen registering to vote? What tactics have been used throughout American history to prevent African American citizens from exercising their full right to vote in this country? 

-How is the character of August Boatwright an empowering character in the film? How does she act as a surrogate mother figure to Lily and how is she an extraordinary figure in terms of her courage and independence? 

-What does the film have to say about families? How do the Boatwright sisters become Lily’s makeshift family? 

-How would you rate THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES? 

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