Honeyland (2019)

A dogged Turkish beekeeper in rural North Macedonia is the anthropological subject of this ravishingly-beautiful documentary that poetically explores the joys and sadness of personal subsistence. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Dir. Tamara Kotevska & Ljubomir Stefanov
2019 | North Macedonia | Documentary | 89 mins | 1.85:1 | Turkish & other languages
PG13 (online rating)

Plot: The last female bee-hunter in Europe must save the bees and return the natural balance, when a family of nomadic beekeepers invade her land and threaten her livelihood.
Awards: Won Grand Jury Prize, Cinematography Award & World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award (Sundance); Nom. for 2 Oscars – Best International Feature & Best Documentary Feature
International Sales: Submarine

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Easygoing – Life-Affirming
Narrative Style:  Straightforward
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse

Viewed: The Projector Plus
Spoilers: No

You won’t believe how ravishingly-beautiful this documentary is until you watch the opening minutes.  And then soon after, you will fall for its entrancing mood and measured pacing as it draws you into a space and time that might possibly cleanse you from all the toxic urbanity you have accumulated. 

Honeyland is one of those life-affirming cinematic detoxes that ought to be welcomed now and then, plus it has two Oscar nominations to its name for Best International Feature and Best Documentary Feature (the first-ever combo in Oscar history). 

A dogged Turkish beekeeper in rural North Macedonia is the film’s anthropological subject as she traverses the natural landscape to do what she needs to do: to take care of her bees, be it near her home, or atop a mountain with a pathway that seems death-defying, so that they may produce enough honey for her to sell in the nearby city. 

She lives with her very old bedridden mother in a hut with no running water or electricity, but she has dogs, kittens, and of course, bees for company. 

“Take half, leave half.”

Honeyland poetically explores the joys and sadness of personal subsistence, and this is refreshing because we urbanites are all about social-climbing and trying to live the most comfortable life possible, yet here we have Hatidze who is a necessary reminder that not all people are privileged enough to be able to improve their lives, even when they deserve to. 

Shot almost three years on location, Honeyland is an intimate encounter between Man and nature whether filmed in close-ups or extreme wide shots—some of its most indelible images include the birthing of a baby cow, quiet candle-lit scenes of Hatidze and her mother, the moving of cattle into/away from a nearby ranch by her ‘noisy neighbours’, etc. 

Ultimately, Honeyland teaches us to respect nature and to live with dignity, values that we more often than not forget. 

Grade: A-




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