Honeyland (2019)

Honeyland (2019 film).jpgDirector: Tamara Kotevska, Ljubomir Stefanov
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Rating: 12a
Starring: Hatidzhe Muratova, Nazife Muratova, Hussein Sam, Ljutvie Sam

It's funny how plans can change. Directors Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov had originally conceived an environmental documentary, focused on a river which runs through central Macedonia. When the pair came across handmade beehives, they asked around who was responsible, which led them to the last resident of a village, Hatidzhe Muratova. Three years of filming later, the directors were left with hundreds of hours worth of footage, and worked through them to compile a engaging feature which is under 90 minutes long.

The days of Hatidzhe Muratova are spent taking care of others. She looks after her elderly mother, the last of her family, while dedicating her life to beekeeping. She tends to the creatures, while intent on keeping a balance between nature and man, taking half of their honey to sell for money, but leaving the other half for the bees. Throughout the short runtime, Hatidzhe is treated with such care and empathy, as this intimate tale showcases what she devoted her life to. She laments for how her life could've turned out, if her father had accepted potential suitors for her, if she had children, and if she moved away from where she's lived all her life, so the bees are one of the few constants in her life.

But the arrival of new neighbours leads to Hatidzhe's life being thrown into turmoil. They want to get in on this venture, and through their inability to take care of bees, resort to awful and ill-thought out measures. This has horrifying results, which showcases the destructive nature of man towards nature, for their own selfish purposes. When we've been told how much these bees mean to our lead, it's heartbreaking to see how such ineptitude impacts upon her .

Considering how well crafted this documentary is, it's even more surprising to know the directors didn't speak a word of Turkish (the preferred language of the films main subjects). Translators were hired to interpret the language, but after the directors pieced together the story through visuals alone, and were shocked to discover how perfectly it all fit together. They didn't change what they put on the line, with the astounding visuals telling the story so effectively, resulting in something that's engrossing and empathetic in equal measure.