Honeyland – Film Review

This year’s Best Documentary category at the Oscars was stacked high of heavy contenders, one of those was Honeyland. Unfortunately the film missed out on a golden statue, but that by no means makes it a bad film! Debut documentarians Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov spent 3 years crafting this film, capturing over 400 hours of spectacular footage and telling the story of one of the last Female traditional beekeepers in Macedonia. 

Hatidze Muratova is at the centre of the film. Of Turkish descent, Hatidze lives in an isolated and abandoned village in the heart of the North Macedonia mountains, living a simple life raising her bees with traditional methods. She sells the honey at the local markets, using the proceeds to buy food, and a few luxuries, for herself and her frail, elderly mother, Nazife.  

The pair’s peaceful life is thrown into chaos when a Turkish nomadic rancher and his family move in next door. The families start to bond after several months, with one of the ranchers son’s taking a shining to Hatidze. She takes him under his wing and starts teaching him the traditional beekeeping ways, one of her main rules is never take too much honey; half for the bees, half for us. A pretty simple rule really. The rancher soon catches on to the profitability of beekeeping and decides to get himself dozens of beehives, and with little regard to the rules. The ranchers’ greed puts the whole bee population at risk!

The story behind Honeyland isn’t deep or complex. It’s rather simple. But the way that the film is made and presented tells the story in an amazing way. The film is very artistically shot, with breathtaking panoramas and landscapes, but also a lot of intimate scenes that make you feel like a fly on the wall. It is crafted in such a way that really draws you right into the scenes and keeps you hooked.

Compared to many other feature length documentaries, Honeyland has very little dialogue, mainly important conversations that are important to the story. The rest of the story is told through observation and even body language, which I found to be an interesting storytelling method, helping keep the viewer engaged.

Overall, Honeyland is a charming and beautiful look at one woman’s simple, traditional lifestyle and the outside forces that seek to destroy it. I thoroughly enjoyed the film and fell in love with Hatidze’s bubbly personality and passion for the environment that she relies on. I felt anger at the rancher and his family, who had no respect for the earth they farmed, the animals they raised and even their lack of care for their own children. But all is well in the end, and I must commend Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov for crafting an amazing film and bringing Hatidze’s story to the world.

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