The opening frames of “Honeyland” are so rustically sumptuous that you wonder, for a second, if they’ve somehow been art directed.
Elegantly dressed in a vivid ochre blouse and emerald headscarf, captured in long shot as she nimbly wends her way through a craggy but spectacular Balkan landscape, careworn middle-aged beekeeper Hatidze Muratova heads to check on her remote, hidden colony of bees — delicately extracting a dripping wedge of honeycomb that’s the exact saturated shade as her outfit.
With man and nature so exquisitely coordinated, it’s as if Hatidze herself has grown from the same rocky land, and in a sense, she has. Scraping by with her ailing mother, Nazife, on a tiny, electricity-free smallholding in an otherwise unpopulated mountain settlement in Macedonia, Hatidze has known no other life, and has certainly seen more bees than people in her time.
In Ljubomir Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska’s painstaking observational documentary, everything from the honey upwards is organic.
Shot over three years, with no voiceover or interviews to lead the narrative, “Honeyland” begins as a calm, captured-in-amber character study, before stumbling upon another, more conflict-driven story altogether — as younger interlopers on the land threaten not just Hatidze’s solitude but her very livelihood with their newer, less nature-conscious farming methods.
As a plain environmental allegory blossoms without contrivance from the cracks, Stefanov and Kotevska’s ravishingly shot debut accrues a subtle power that will be felt by patient audiences.
“Honeyland” was awarded the Grand Jury prize in the World Cinema Documentary category at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
Read the story at Variety.
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