Hot Docs 2019: Our Review of ‘Honeyland’

Hot Docs 2019: Our Review of ‘Honeyland’

The last of the Macedonian wild beekeepers, Haditze Muratova lives a modest life in the Balkan mountainside. She spends her days taking care of her ailing mother, chatting with her neighbor Hussein Sam’s family and tending to her various honeycombs. When the honey is just right, Haditze gathers a batch to sell at a Skopje market. Ensuring only to take half of what the bees produce, and leave them the rest, she has maintained a system that is beneficial both financially and environmentally.

Unfortunately, her disciplined approach is not adopted by those around her. Desperate to make some money to feed his large clan, Hussein attempts to cultivate his own bees in addition to raising cattle and growing produce. Aside from being frequently frustrated at his inability to get ahead, which he takes out on his family, his impatience causes him to agree to a honey production deal that he is clearly not set up to adequately fulfill. As the pressure mounts, Hussein embarks on practices that will have devastating ramifications for Haditze’s livelihood as well.

A visually absorbing film, the events in Honeyland may take place in a rural landscape, but its themes are surprisingly universal. Directors Ljubomir Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska’s observational approach offers fascinating commentary on gender, our use of nature and the male ego. Just as her bees are impacted by forces beyond their control, Haditze’s life is frequently derailed by the men in her orbit. It is clear her life would be different had her deceased father accepted the offers the matchmaker presented him. Even as a grown woman her independent voice and way of life is ultimately stifled by the egos of inept men like Hussein.

Equally captivating and heartbreaking Honeyland is a bittersweet film.

Screens:
Thursday, May 2, 6:45 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox 2
Friday, May 3, 6:45 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox 3
Saturday, May 4, 3:30 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox 3

This post was written by
Courtney is a Rotten Tomatoes approved critic and the founder of Cinema Axis. He can frequently be heard discussing film as co-host of Frameline on Radio Regent. Courtney has contributed to several publications including Leornard Maltin, That Shelf, Black Girl Nerds, and Comix Asylum Magazine. He also celebrates diversity in cinema as co-hosts of the Changing Reels podcast and is a member of the Online Film Critics Society.
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