Friday, June 26, 2020

Medena zemja / Honeyland

Медена земја / Bal Ülkesi / Hunajan maa / Honungslandet.
    A creative documentary.
    MK (Republic of North Macedonia) © 2019 PC: Apolo Media / Trice Films. P: Atanas Georgiev, Ljubomir Stefanov.
    D: Tamara Kotevska, Ljumobir Stefanov. Cin: Fejmi Daut, Samir Ljuma – digital – camera: Nikon DSLR – colour – 1,85:1 – release: DCP. M: Foltin. S: Rana Eid. ED: Atanas Georgiev. Additional documentary footage: Kristijan Karadjovski.
    Featuring: Hatidze Muratova, Nazife Muratova, Hussein Sam, Ljutvie Sam.
    Loc: North Macedonia: Bekirlija and Skopje.
    Language: Turkish ("an ancient Turkish vernacular" according to the official website)
    89 min
    Festival premiere: 28 Jan 2019 Sundance Film Festival.
    Finnish festival premiere: 12 June 2019 Midnight Sun Film Festival.
    Republic of North Macedonia premiere: 29 Aug 2019.
    Finnish telepremiere: 29 March 2020 Yle Teema.
    Corona lockdown viewings / Midnight Sun Film Festival (MSFF) online edition / Women Make Film.
    Viewed with Finnish subtitles by Seija Uuskoski and Sampsa Peltonen (Yle) from Yle Areena, viewed at a forest retreat in Punkaharju on a tv screen, 27 June 2020.

Official synopsis: "When a nomadic family moves in and breaks Honeyland’s basic rule, the last female wild beekeeper in Europe must save the bees and restore the natural balance."

AA: As far as I can tell Honeyland is the first film I have seen from the country called the Republic of North Macedonia. But I have seen and liked for instance Milcho Manchevski's Before the Rain / Pred dozhdot (1994) made in the same country while it was still known as plain Macedonia. Both films are distinguished.

The global existential crisis of the bees has been discussed in contemporary cinema by the likes of Alice Rohrwacher (Le meraviglie) and Markus Imhoof (Des abeilles et des hommes), both directors coming from beekeeping families. In Tamara Kotevska and Ljumobir Stefanov's Honeyland the existential implications are also present, but not explicitly.

Honeyland belongs to one of the noblest traditions in documentary cinema. It records an ancient trade with a loving care worthy of Robert Flaherty. A careful balance is observed between nature and humanity. Beekeeping takes place in a sustainable way, with attention paid to the surrounding milieu and to the long view of continuity.

The simple way of life of the beekeeper is very demanding. You need to devote all your life to the art and craft. Hatidze even becomes a member of the bee world. She talks with bees and sings with them.

This is not understood by a nomadic family that moves to the neighbouring house of the beekeeper veteran Hatidze Muratova. The new family's way of life is based on the depletion of resources. In beekeeping, this becomes calamitous also for the neighbour, because starved bees attack the surrounding beehives. By controlled burn the nomad family destroys the flora from the mountain slope, causing further damage to beekeeping. By breaking an ancient log bridge over a wild river they destroy yet another source of bees. Finally they pack their things and move on.

All this is witnessed by Hatidze. It's a tragic tale, and no viewer can fail to realize the allegory, although it is not telegraphed.

Digitally photographed with a Nikon DSLR camera by Fejmi Daut and Samir Ljuma, the visual experience is ravishing and painterly. There are breathtaking extreme long shots of mountain views. The beekeeping scenes have special documentary value. Mostly the film takes place in the mountain area, but there are also scenes from the market of Skopje, the capital of the country. Besides the gorgeous, panoramic landscape shots there are also many scenes with illuminating details. All seasons are covered, from the lush summer to the snowy winter. The colour is radiant and glowing in a most appealing way.

Humanly, the film is of the highest order, focusing on the veteran Hatidze and her blind and paralyzed mother of whom she takes loving care. Honeyland is a profoundly religious, Christian film, in an unobtrusive way. Faith is expressed in action, in the good deeds and the patience with which Hatidze weathers the calamities caused by greedy and shortsighted neighbours and in her commitment to restore the broken order.


Hunajan maa
    1 h 25 min
    ma 23.3.2020
Pohjois-Makedonian syrjäseudun jyrkillä rinteillä elää Euroopan viimeinen villihunajan kerääjä, Hatidze. Hän hoitaa varovasti mehiläisiä ja varjelee samalla koko ekosysteemiä. Mutta muutoksen tuulet puhaltavat, Hatidze ja tämän vanha äiti saavat uudet naapurit. Kaunis kuvaus ahneudesta ja katoavasta elämäntavasta voitti Sundancessa ja ylsi kaksinkertaiseksi Oscar-ehdokkaaksi. Dokumenttielokuvan ohjasivat Tamara Kotevska ja Ljubomir Stefanov. Ensiesitys. (Pohjois-Makedonia, 2019)


When a nomadic family move in and break Honeyland’s basic rule, the last female wild beekeeper in Europe must save the bees and restore natural balance.


Nestled in an isolated mountain region deep within the Balkans, Hatidze Muratova lives with her ailing mother in a village without roads, electricity or running water. She’s the last in a long line of Macedonian wild beekeepers, eking out a living farming honey in small batches to be sold in the closest city – a mere four hours’ walk away. Hatidze’s peaceful existence is thrown into upheaval by the arrival of an itinerant family, with their roaring engines, seven rambunctious children and herd of cattle. Hatidze optimistically meets the promise of change with an open heart, offering up her affections, her brandy and her tried-and-true beekeeping advice.

It doesn’t take long however, before Hussein, the itinerant family’s patriarch, senses opportunity and develops an interest in selling his own honey. Hussein has seven young mouths to feed and nowhere to graze his cattle, and he soon casts Hatidze’s advice aside in his hunt for profit. This causes a breach in the natural order that provokes a conflict with Hatidze that exposes the fundamental tension between nature and humanity, harmony and discord, exploitation and sustainability. Even as the family provides a much-needed respite from Hatidze’s isolation and loneliness, her very means of survival are threatened.

The debut feature from documentarians Ljubo Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska HONEYLAND was shot over three years by a skeleton crew committed to an intimate collaboration between filmmakers and subject. HONEYLAND is made with the widescreen sweep of an epic, visually ambitious and driven by an unexpectedly dramatic narrative and a surprising sense of humor. It’s a tough and tender portrait of the delicate balance between humankind and nature, a glimpse at a fast disappearing way of life, and an unforgettable testament to one extraordinary woman’s resilience.


The HONEYLAND story began long before humans ever lived in the region, but our narrative starts with its last two remaining inhabitants: Hatidze and her mother Nazife. Just as worker bees spend their entire lives taking care of the queen bee which never leaves the hive, Hatidze has committed her own life to the care of her blind and paralyzed mother, unable to leave their ramshackle hut. The film is set in an unearthly lan, unattached to a specific time and geography, unreachable by regular roads, and yet, only 20 km away from the nearest modern city.

The families here use an ancient Turkish vernacular, so the film is driven by visual narration rather than dialogue, the characters are understood through their body language and their relationships, and their emotions. This visual and visceral communication draws the audience closer to the protagonists, and more importantly – closer to nature. Engendering the feeling that we as humans are but one species among many, equally affected by the circumstances around us.

The Nagoya Protocol – a United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) – came into force at the end of 1993 and established global guidelines on access to natural resources. Its objective was the promotion of fair and equitable sharing of benefits for both providers – i.e. land, plants, animals – and users – i.e. humans – of resources. Genetic diversity, or biodiversity, enables populations to adapt to changing environments and a changing climate, contributing to the conservation and sustainability of resources. The “honey crisis” in this film illustrates the risk of ignoring these protocols and upsetting the respect for biodiversity.

Hatidze’s story is a microcosm for a wider idea of how closely intertwined nature and humanity are, and how much we stand to lose if we ignore this fundamental connection.

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