Director Robert Townsend is well-known for his comedy films like “Hollywood Shuffle” and “Meteor Man” as well as for the beloved film “The Five Heartbeats,” about a male singing group. But he moved to darker fare last year with his film “In the Hive,” a movie about a school in North Carolina run by the extraordinary Vivian Saunders. The school, now sadly closed, but reopened this year as a community center, was the last resort for young violent offenders who could not return to regular schools. Townsend said that story drew him to do this film.
“In the Hive” came out last year but now it’s out on DVD,” Townsend told the Tom Joyner Morning Show “It aired on BET, but the version on DVD is the director’s cut. It’s a very powerful movie and it’s a true story based on the life of this woman in North Carolina who turned around the lives of these boys. They were called the discarded boys. They were kicked out of schools all around North Carolina – they were drug dealers and gangbangers. This is my edgiest film to date. It’s rated R and it’s like Robert Townsend doing and R-Rated movie? But they say it’s like “Boyz in the Hood” or “Menace to Society” for this generation.”
Townsend said the loss of young men around the country impacted his motivation to direct “The Hive.” Although he’s currently in New York City to see his own daughter, Alexia, graduate from New York University, and is very proud that she wants to become a director, he is conscious of the struggle that young people are waging for survival who are not as privileged.
“We’re losing all these kids. Every day, there is a shooting going on in Chicago, and around the country because these kids are wilding out. So for me as an artist, I always have to do something special and something different and I think “In The Hive” is really a powerful movie. I just want people to see it. I’ve shown it to the college boards and different teachers. I want people to support the film, but I think it could be used as a powerful tool as well. It’s entertaining. If you liked “The Five Heartbeats,” and other movies I’ve done in the past, this movie has a lot of heart and it will make you laugh and cry.”
Loretta Devine, who plays Saunders, was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for the role, competing with Halle Berry and Viola Davis. Jonathan McDaniel, best known as Raven’s boyfriend on the Disney series “That’s So Raven,” plays Xtra Keys, the film’s main character. He receives high praise from Townsend, who calls him “the next Brando or James Dean” of this new generation of actors.
But sadly, “In The Hive” is also Michael Clarke Duncan’s last film. Townsend says a scene from the movie was played at his funeral.
“It broke my heart,” Townsend said. “”We showed one of the scenes of the movie at his funeral, because everyone was like we gotta show his final performance.”
Click here to buy or stream “In the Hive.”