Honeyland is at times, a tough watch. As a real-life documentary, it takes us to places out of bounds to fictional filmmakers. We watch animals dying and children getting hurt (albeit accidentally, but arguably neglectfully) in scenes of what is a pretty brutal existence. But poverty is handled very differently by the two families we meet.
Directed by Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov, the piece follows Hatidze Muratova, a wild beekeeper in her fifties. She lives with no running water or electricity, and cares for her elderly infirm mother by selling her wares in the Skopje markets. Hatidze emanates serenity, warmth and joy. She has a deep respect for all creatures and nature, always leaving half of the honey behind for the bees when harvesting. But when a chaotic family of nine pitch up their caravan and herd of cows next door, her life changes. She welcomes and befriends them, even respectfully passing on her honey-making skills to the father, Hussein and his children.
In an echo of society’s wider disease, Hussein who has a very different approach to life is seduced by lucrative offers for the sale of his new honey. He soon disregards the laws of nature and begins harvesting all of the honey at a time. Hatidze begs him to stop, warning that if his bees have nothing, they’ll attack hers, but to no avail. When she’s forced to move her hive, Hussein, under pressure and driven by money, loots it. Before long she’s left with nothing.
Despite a pretty depressing narrative in many ways, it’s filled with hope and balanced by many naturally amusing moments, skillfully and artistically woven together on screen. Hatidze proves to be a phoenix with an amazing attitude. It’s a slow-moving film, with many lingering shots of her in times of both peace and turmoil. Often these incorporate an aeroplane, highlighting the schism between her almost medieval existence and the consumerist lifestyle of the western world. The (real-life, not scripted) message is clear and deeply relevant. Nature cannot be continually raped without consequences. A timely tale, Honeyland depicts a microcosm of what’s happening all around the world on a global scale.
@Filmhouse, Edinburgh until Thu 19 Sep 2019