Friday, July 26, 2019

“Honeyland” The Last Beekeeper of North Macedonia

By José Alberto Hermosillo
Honeyland poster courtesy of Neon
“Honeyland” is one of the most outstanding achievements in filmmaking this year. The documentary is a realistic portrait of the asperous conditions of rural living no one can ignore. Remarkable, environmentally opportune, unmissable.

“Honeyland” chronicles the life of a determined provincial woman who defies other humans and nature stoically to save the bees.

Up in the mountains of North Macedonia, we follow Hatidze’s journey, a forgotten native, bearer of an ancient secret about bees, where they are, and how to take care of them. 

As she collects half of the honey, she shares the other half with the bees. And above all, she knows what the bees need to keep them alive thru the seasons.
Honeyland photo courtesy of Neon
Hatidze also takes care of her 85-year-old mother. Their connection is symbiotic, and their codependency profound. They are emotionally supportive of each other.

In their humble hut, the mother hopes for her middle-age daughter to marry a suitable prospect. Something more than impossible for being the only two living souls up in the mountains of the Balkans peninsula.  

We see her walking miles to the city happily. At the market, she interacts with the vendors, mostly Albanians, and Bosnians, who let her know how much money she can get for her honey. With that money, she can buy other products, like the bananas her mother enjoys very much.
Honeyland photo courtesy of Neon
When she returns, new neighbors arrived. A family of Turkish nomads in their mobile-home, cattle, and eight children. All survivors, hungry and ready to take over. That also includes the bee business and merchandising the honey for a higher price.
Honeyland photo courtesy of Neon
“Honeyland” is entreating and exciting. The humor is center in the free-spirited children pushing their luck interacting with the animals.
 
A few weeks pass by when greed alters the natural balance. Without any environmental actions, biblical repercussions take place in this tiny part of the wealthiest continent, Europe. 
Ljubomir Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska, filmmakers of Honeyland.
Photo José A. Hermosillo, Festival in LA
©2019
The talented filmmakers Ljubomir Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska worked three years shooting this endearing documentary on a rural location where filming conditions were challenging.

Their small crew had no shelter and no showers; they were camping in tents. For that reason, they only shoot four to five consecutive days a week, then go back to civilization to recharge batteries. 

They took one full year to edit more than 400 hours of footage and be able to follow three storylines harmoniously: the beekeeper, the restless family, and the land. 
Honeyland photo courtesy of Neon
The editing runs flawlessly and entertaining. The linear structure is so good that it is hard to distinguish if we were watching a documentary or a narrative story. 

In the making of this film, the children helped to convince the adults to participate in the documentary. In the beginning, it was difficult for the filmmakers to approach the family. They were a fundamental part of the story.

Their eco-friendly documentary delivers a compelling message – if we use all the natural resources at once, we will have nothing left to continue living. We must conserve some supplies for the future. Users and providers must keep balance on earth, or everything will be lost.
Ljubomir Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska, filmmakers of HoneyLand.
Photo José A. Hermosillo Festival in LA
©2019
The American environmentalist documentary “The Biggest Little Farm” has a much more sophisticated approach to how climate change affects and the way we produce and consume natural products.

Also, the Swedish documentary “More than Honey” states: “If the bees disappear, humans will follow within three years.” The epic European production takes a global approach and an ambitious solution, while the Macedonian work focuses in a microcosm, their land, and how the last remaining beekeeper fights for the bee’s preservation.
Ljubomir Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska, filmmakers of Honeyland.
Photo José Alberto Hermosillo Festival in LA
©2019
Coincidentally, the documentary juxtaposes parallel universes: Hatidze and her mother in their hut can compare with the bees in their hive. The mother as the queen who never leaves the house, with the bees in their hierarchical organization.

For Hatidze, dyeing her hair is a symbol of beauty, aspiring to be someone beautiful even in the hills without knowing that the bloom is inside her noble heart. 

According to the filmmakers, “This story has no villains, only victims of consumerism. The inhabitants have to be more persistent and immune to the capitalist system that devours everything.

For many, “Honeyland” is considered a Masterpiece; it won more than eleven awards in festivals around the world, including this year's Grand Jury Prize and Best Cinematography at the World Cinema Docs in Sundance. Additionally, the film won the Special Jury Prize for Impact & Change at Sundance as well. It won Best Documentary at Montclair Film Festival, and Best Documentary at Docs Barcelona - Spain. 

I am hoping to have the filmmakers Ljubomir Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska back in Los Angeles for the Award Season because “Honeyland” is a documentary worth a Golden Globe, Oscar, and Spirit Award nomination.
Hatidze in Honeyland photo courtesy of Neon
The dream of Hatidze, the beekeeper, came true when she was able to tell her unbelievable story so generously in the film, creating an environmental conscience, transmitting so vividly her love for the bees - making the audience part of her fascinating universe named “Honeyland.”

Ljubomir Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska, filmmakers of Honeyland. 
Film critic José Alberto Hermosillo. Photo: Gabriel Romero, Festival in LA ©2019

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