Jack Hobson reviews award-winning documentary Honeyland, showing for one last screening in our cinema on Wednesday 18 December at 20:30.
Winning three awards at the Sundance Film Festival, Honeyland traverses the varying Macedonian landscape as beautifully it does the vicissitudes of the life of one of the few remaining traditional beekeepers.
Filmmakers Tamara Kotevska and Ljubo Stefanov excellently portray environments, from markets to mountains, as beekeeper Hatidze appears to charm all around her. Nature encompasses man through extreme long shots whereas the life of bees are put under the microscope; through this, human centric expectations are subverted and expelled and a new order is established.
A lack of voice over narration or mention of filmmakers allow the subject and audience to purely interact. Honeyed visual shots aside the enigmatic character of Hatidze make the film feel more fiction than fact in early scenes. However an end doesn’t come before stark reminders of reality arrive through honest and uncensored portrayals of the taboo. It is easy to feel uncomfortable at first, with nothing being hidden from the audience, but the filmmakers clearly approach each scene with respect and care, ensuring that nothing appears completely diminutive or otherwise glorified.
The film ultimately resonates with a concern of human responsibility over ecology. The topic of relationships, especially of family, is also poignant – as if encouraging the idea of treating nature as you would familiar blood.
Humanity and wilderness are intertwined, if occasionally at odds in the exploration of the bond not only between beekeeper and bees but also between neighbours as conflicts arise and the balance is stirred. Nonetheless, the hectic business of humans feels more like ants toppling on the grand stage of nature – an omnipresent and ethereal presence throughout and within.
Life, death; man, nature – Honeyland is unafraid to depict everything equally while teaching us that we should all become more like Hatidze; humble keepers of the earth.