Honeyland, an Oscar contender for both best documentary boast and best international boast, may firstly appear to be concerned with wild beekeeping in the small, landlocked Republic of North Macedonia. And bees do fill the film–flitting in and out of frame, stinging clumsy hapless neighbours, and alchemizing the draconian countryside into molten amber. But the documentary doesn’t teach us much about fostering honey. At its stomach, this film is a character study, a musing on the life of a woman who has carved out a precarious existence in an unforgiving place.
When we first congregate Hatidze, she is ascending the direction from the rustic homestead she shares with her dying baby and her bird-dog, Jackie, in search of wild bees in the encircle mountains. She has endured for more than 50 years in the wreckings of an abandoned village with no energy or indoor plumbing, eking out her existence by journeying to the closest city to trade the sugar for medication and return. And by all accountings, she is quite happy, according to filmmakers Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov.
When the filmmakers firstly converged her, she was singing, Kotevska cancelled when I interviewed her and Stefanov last week. “Every time she has a new person coming to her opening, she starts singing to them to break the ice.” She likewise sings to the bees, a procedure that appears to quell their stings.
The arrival of a nomadic family–trailer, shabby cattle, kittens, and a offspring of children in tow–shatters Hatidze’s serene world, and that tension determineds the striking ventures of the cinema. Her new neighbors don’t share her ideology of taking only what’s needed from the bees. Their avarice, and the events that soon undid, have led many critics to praise the film as an story for the modern world’s impact on our more fragile ecosystems.
But there’s another dimension to Hatidze’s story that, for me, hoists the movie above a simple fable about human desire. The death of Hatidze’s two sisters has tasked her with caring for her dying father alone. Their communications, which come about in the dark, cave-like interior of their dwelling, are often quite funny–the daily bickering of two aging women. But they also contain harrowing tellings of Hatidze’s inner yearnings. “When matchmakers came here, you didn’t acquired any? ” she questions her father. “When they were asking for my hand? ”
“She’s the greatest sociable and artist you’ll ever converge, and yet she’s trapped all her life in this abandoned area .”
Hatidze seems to wonder about the roads her life might have taken. “If I’d had a son like you, ” she last-minute tells one of the neighbor sons, “things would be different.”
“You can see how unjust life was to her, because she’s the greatest extrovert and craftsman you’ll ever fill, and yet she’s captured all her life in this abandoned area, and given the burden to take care of her father, ” Kotevska said.
The filmmakers invested three years with Hatidze. I wondered why someone would agree to bare herself on camera this nature. But Kotevska says that there was never any need for negotiation; from the first time she encountered the filmmakers, Hatidze wanted to get her story out to the world. As Kotevska situated it, “this was her direction of liberation.”
Ljubo Stefanov Samir Ljuma
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