A look at "Secret Life of Bees" in time of Obama

Thu Oct 16, 2008 3:06pm EDT
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By Bob Tourtellotte

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - If Barack Obama is elected U.S. President, he might just have Dakota Fanning to thank.

More precisely, he can thank people like fictional character Lily Owens, whom Fanning portrays in the new civil rights era movie "The Secret Life of Bees," because without trailblazers like Lily, Obama may not be in the position he is.

"The Secret Life of Bees," which opens on Friday, marks a departure for 14-year-old Fanning. Until now, she has been seen mostly as the adorable little girl in films such as "The Cat in the Hat," "War of the Worlds" and "Charlotte's Web."

Her one push into teenage parts, low-budget "Hounddog" in which she played a victim of child rape, opened in September to little fanfare and almost no box office. But "Bees," in which she gets her first on-screen kiss, is a different sort of film.

It is backed by Fox Searchlight, the studio that has lured audiences to hit comedies "Juno," "Little Miss Sunshine" and "Sideways." Moreover, "Bees" features an A-list cast including Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson and singer Alicia Keys.

Yet "Bees" is more than just a film with a hit-making studio behind it and a strong cast. Based on a best-selling novel, it is set in 1964 when the U.S. Congress was debating landmark civil rights legislation. In taking audiences back to that time period, it tells a new generation -- Fanning's -- that people of different races have more in common, than not.

"It was great to explore that in a film and show the intensity of the civil rights era," Fanning told Reuters. "A lot of people my age and younger didn't even know what went on then, so I'm glad this (movie) can change that."

SHAPING OPINION   Continued...

<p>Actress Dakota Fanning arrives at "The Secret Life of Bees" gala during the 33rd Toronto International Film Festival, September 5, 2008. REUTERS/Mark Blinch</p>