Honeyland is a documentary directed by Jlubo Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska. It won the 2019 Sundance awards for Cinematography, Documentary and Impact for Change. It is a simple but profound story, and a metaphor for modern day humanity and the crossroads we have come to as a species on this tiny, blue planet.
***Spoiler Alert*** If you plan on watching the documentary, you might want to go do that first, then come back and read more 🙂
Here’s the story: We watch the simple but rewarding life of Hatidze, a beekeeper in the mountains of Macedonia. She lives with and cares for her elderly, ailing mother in their humble, rustic home with their dog and cats. She makes a living by cultivating honey using traditional methods. Her hives are in the mountains in alcoves in the mountain itself. She has to walk a distance and climb up the rocky hills in order to access them. She is rewarded with healthy hives with a number of honeycombs. She harvests some and leaves some for the health of the hive. She practices reverence for animals and for nature. There is enough for her and for them. Hatidze cares for her elderly mother, who suffers from some undisclosed illness that has taken the sight of one of her eyes. She feeds her porridge and bananas she buys in town with the money she gets from selling the honey. It is excellent honey, one of her customers comments. Apart from her mother’s ill health, Hatidze lives a harmonious, if sometimes lonely, life.
Suddenly, one day, a family arrives in the deserted village. The cacophany begins as mother, father and their seven children arrive with their cattle and dilapidated trailer. At first, Hatidze welcomes their presence and spends time with them, trying to get a transistor radio to work, dancing with the children in the evening and showing one of the older boys how a bee hive works.
The Father decides he too will get into the honey making business and sets up his various wooden hives. Hatidze shares her knowledge of how to care for the hive and collect the honey. The family ekes out a living but conflict becomes a daily occurrence in the new household. The children are required to help with the beekeeping but balk when they are repeatedly stung. The Father has struck a deal with a Business Man to produce a massive amount of honey for him. This stranger is obsessed with the delicious honey.
I watched the documentary last night and today I find myself reflecting on the significance of the story. In fact, for me it symbolizes a metaphor for the modern day world and humanity’s relationship with nature and the Earth.
Hatidze represents Feminine energy: she cares for her elderly mother, she cares for her hives and extracts only what she needs from them, leaving plenty behind for the continued health of the hive. She has compassion and reverence for animals and life. She lives in a harmonious rhythm with the world around her. She exhibits compassion for her mother and patience for the rhythm of life itself.
The Father and the Business Man represent Masculine energy. The Business Man exhorts the Father to produce more honey for him. The Father, though conflicted, sets about to do so, even though it means that his practices are not sustainable. He takes as much as he can from the hives, and as a result, the hives fail. This also creates havoc for Hatidze’s neighbouring hives, as the Father’s bees go looking for another hive. We see how, in all the flurry of producing honey, the livestock is not properly cared for resulting in diseased and dead animals. More conflict between the Father, Mother and children ensues.
We see how the Father and the Business Man prioritize economic matters, unsustainable production, and lack of regard for the bees and the rhythms of nature. They lack patience, reverence for life and regard everything as a means to an end.
Then, just as abruptly, the family leaves. There is nothing left for them there. They’ve taken what they can, and now in their wake leave Hatidze to deal with her failed hives. It reminds me of the scenario where a giant corporation comes in and clear cuts old growth forests and then leaves, without regard for conservation, climate impacts or those living on or near those lands.
I find this to be a metaphor for what is happening in this time period of commercialism on Earth. Instead of ensuring everyone has the necessities of life, corporations and governments focus on profit at the expense of people and the Earth. The Earth is being, and has been, pillaged for decades now, and we are arriving at the moment of “colony death”.
Can we take the lesson this story is offering us and move forward with a view to change our ways? It seems that the more “progress” we make as a species, the more we need to go back to doing things more simply, and more in rhythm with the natural world, and our own physical and psychological needs. We need to prioritize health for all beings, including animals and the Earth herself. Will we wake up and have the courage and political will to do this? We definitely can, if we take positive action now. One way to take positive action is to let your political representatives know that climate change, health and well-being and sustainability are priorities for you. Share this message, get involved in some little or big way. It all counts and moves us in the right direction.
Here are just a few links for organizations that are working for good. Check them out!
Canadians.org – The Council of Canadians
Published first on Wonder and Impact.