Lion's Gate Films presents two major movies involving race relations, individually described below:
MONSTER'S BALL (2001) - Set in modern Mississippi, MONSTER'S BALL subtly examines the impact of personal loss and the transforming power of human connection. The movie begins in the state penitentiary's death row, where father-and-son prison guards Hank (Billy Bob Thornton) and Sonny Grotowski (Heath Ledger) administer the execution of a black death-row inmate Lawrence Musgrove (Sean Combs), who leaves behind a wife, Leticia (Halle Berry), and son, Tyrell (Coronji Calhoun). When both Hank and Leticia's children subsequently die, the two grieving parents are accidentally thrust together, where they begin to find comfort and eventually a form of redemption. Employing a languid pace and minimalist dialogue, MONSTER'S BALL slowly moves forward on the strength of the cast's performances and Marc Forster's understated direction. The complex characters are allowed to develop gradually over the course of the entire movie, making the film a richly satisfying character study rather than a quick, plot-driven confection. Halle Berry won the Academy Award for her electrifying performance, one of the most powerful ever captured on film.
O (2001) - Director Tim Blake Nelson sets Shakespeare's OTHELLO in a modern day private high school and the result is a dark, somber teen tragedy. Mekhi Phifer (CLOCKERS) stars as Odin James, an African-American star basketball player at the otherwise all-white school. The coach of the team (Martin Sheen) loves Odin like a son, which causes real son Hugo (Josh Hartnett) to squirm with jealousy and plan an elaborate revenge. Julia Stiles (a modern dress Shakespeare regular, having also co-starred in HAMLET and TEN THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU) portrays Desi, the virginal daughter of the dean, with whom Odin is in love. The ensuing outburst of tragic teen violence is a shocking denouement that elevates the already dangerous mood of the film to full-fledged terror. The film was shelved for years by a nervous Miramax in the wake of the real-life Columbine high school massacre, but Lion's Gate Films eventually picked the movie up and released it. Such concern seems needless in retrospect, since the film does nothing to glorify the violence it depicts, preferring instead to explore themes of class, race, and all-consuming jealousy. Shakespeare's original dialogue is abandoned in favor of hip-hop-flavored modern language, but the tale's timeless relevance remains unaltered.