The Bees’ Knees: Honeyland

I looked at several movies to watch this afternoon trying to fit in one more film that was ‘in the conversation’ as the hipsters say, so I chose Honeyland, which has been Oscar shortlisted for both best doc and best foreign film. Additionally, Honeyland’s been nominated for the Independent Spirit Award and won prizes at both Sundance and even the little ol’ Sarasota Film Fest.

Part The Gods Must Be Crazy and Ulee’s Gold (sorry the last beekeeper movie I’ve seen), Honeyland is a survival of the fittest story that makes Biggest Little Farm look like Disneyland.

Set in Macedonia (geographically, think of it like the toilet paper that Italy kicked off it’s heel) the story follows a 50 something female beekeeper and her relationship with the noisy neighbors that move in next door.

Directed by Ljubomir Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska, the film is a miracle in the cold hard truths about life in the Macedonian frontier. The neighbors who come with five children and herd of cattle, are the European Grapes of Wrath. The children are fundamentally uninsured employees, kicked by cows, injuring each other in play and work, at times refusing their abusive existence.

Meanwhile the main character, Hatidze Muraova, beekeeper and dedicated daughter to an sick elderly mother, had made out adequately by caring for bees and selling honey at local markets. Even in the primitive world, Hatidze tries to improve herself by buying chestnut hair color. I marveled at the fact that our first world and her third world have some of the same preoccupations.

Yet, without giving any spoilers, suffice to say, her world is turned upside down by the interlopers. Morally, I wonder how film makers justify filming families in chaos and suffering just as I wonder how dispassionate reporters detail the afflictions of other third world countries. On the one hand, it’s good to bring awareness to the needs on our collective human planet. And true, I’ve read that the documentarians did share their awards income with Hatidze, so I guess good karma does outweigh exploitation.