Living in Oakland, California, the Naumanns are outwardly a loving, supportive family. Husband and father Saul Naumann is a Religious Studies professor, and looks to his religious training in Judaism as tenets for his family to live. He has high expectations for all members of his family. His mid-teen son, Aaron Naumann, idolizes his father, and does whatever he can to please him. His pre-teen daughter, Eliza Naumann, often feels the neglected child. So when Saul eventually learns that Eliza is participating and excelling in spelling bees, she becomes the focus of his life as he believes that letters in the form of words will lead to answers to the universe. That change in focus to Eliza makes Aaron now feel the neglected one, he who strikes out quietly in his own way with the help of Chali, a young woman he meets. But the person who has felt the most pressure within Saul's way of life is his wife, Miriam Naumann, a microbiologist. She converted from Catholicism to Judaism when she ... Written by
Jonathan Murphy auditioned for the part of Aaron Naumann. See more »
The wind changes directions almost 180° when Chali first meets Aaron at the park. Shots from over her shoulder have her hair blowing back, away from her neck while the shots facing her have the wind blowing her hair forward across her neck/chin. See more »
National Spelling Bee Pronouncer:
Number 14. Eliza Naumann, Oakland Tribune, Oakland, California. "Oppidan".
My father told me once that words and letters hold all the secrets of the universe. That in there shapes and sounds, I could find everything and see beyond myself, to something special. Perfect. My father told me once that I could reach the ear of God.
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BEE SEASON is a strange little film that seems to polarize the public. Though many have dismissed it as fragmentary and superficial, taking the time to bear down on the issues merely touched upon yields an emotional as well as spiritual experience not often found in films. With a cast that includes Juliette Binouche and Richard Gere there should be a hint there may be more to the film than a quick glance might reveal.
Based on the highly successful novel by Myla Goldberg the story enters the household of a family of four: Saul (Richard Gere) is the father who is a professor of spiritual studies; Miriam (Juliette Binouche) is the mother suffering with demons from her past loss of her parents as a child leading her to grow without an intact family; Eliza (Flora Cross) is the daughter who seems content to watch TV instead of paying attention to her schooling; and Aaron (Max Minghella) is the son who excels at playing the cello and who is the focus of his father's life. When it is discovered that Eliza has a penchant for spelling and wins a spelling bee the focus of this family abruptly changes. Suddenly Saul moves his attention to Eliza, convinced that she has the power of the influx of God-knowledge (shefa) described by the Kabbalist Abraham Abulafia. This leads to his prepping her for her constant victories at spelling bees, but it also leaves Aaron without focus and he responds by seeking first Christianity then Hare Krishna for the meaning of his life. At the same time Miriam becomes more isolated and secretive and enters a state of depression that reflects her childhood loss and the need to accumulate 'things' in a number of ways that border on mental breakdown.
The film is best viewed, by the way, by first watching the featurette about the reasons for the making of the film - a wise commentary that gives us enough philosophical background to appreciate the message of the story that seemingly has eluded directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel. Watching the explanation of how religions all act to provide frameworks that should help individuals to piece together the fragments of existence that have been given to us as our lives serves to bring into focus how each of the four characters in this story is each on that journey for meaning. Once viewed, this featurette makes the movie far more meaningful and enjoyable.
The screenplay by Naomi Foner Gyllenhaal (yes, the mother of Maggie and Jake) is minimalist in technique of writing, giving just enough information about the big questions to make us work to paste the story together. The cinematography by Giles Nuttgens and special effects by Sean House are used extraordinarily well to underline the mysticism that permeates the film's story. Peter Nashel's musical score accompanies the otherworldly atmosphere that helps to bring the audience into the mood of the film.
This may not be a great film, but it is a unique one that calls upon the audience to think and free-associate with the characters, each of whom is well enacted by a strong cast. Well worth viewing. Grady Harp
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