Honeyland (Ljubomir Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska, 2019)
There is no doubt that bees are important for our survival, but Honeyland has nothing to do with the fact that one-third of the food we consume each day relies on pollinating insects. The beauty of Honeyland is that it helps us re-evaluate our relation to the world.
Documentarists Ljubomir Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska have certainly learned some lessons from Werner Herzog, as they explore unknown territory, challenging our previous perception of men and landscape. In a deserted Macedonian village, Hatidze Muratova lives with her elderly mother. Hatidze is the last in a long line of wild beekeepers, eking out a living farming honey in small batches to be sold in the closest city.
We first see Hatidze as a strong and lonely woman, amidst the rural area in Macedonia. The lenses capture our main character in a peaceful integration with the landscape, as it is the land and the bees that allow her to survive. By presenting Hatidze as a beekeeper, we begin to read the inner essence of this landscape, and we are transported to Hatidze's reality.
This hypnotic documentary would have been a monotonous short story if it relied solely on the uncanny visual world. Hatidze’s peaceful existence is suddenly interrupted by the arrival of an itinerant family, with their roaring engines, seven children and herd of cattle. Yet Hatidze optimistically meets the promise of change with an open heart, offering up her affections, her brandy and her beekeeping advice. But soon Hussein, the family’s patriarch, with seven hungry mouths to feed makes a series of decisions that could destroy Hatidze’s way of life forever. And that's when a straight story becomes an interesting conflict.
Common people have the notion that documentaries are boring. This stigma operates primarily on the assumption that facts are boring, that history is boring. But there are fascinating things that happen every day, which would be ignored if it wasn't for reckless documentarists. A documentary is still a film, after all, and therefore a piece of art.
Honeyland won two awards at Sundance Film Festival in 2019. The film is in cinemas now.