- Colin Fraser
FOUR STARS A woman keeps bees in a remote corner of North Macedonia. Then new neighbours arrive.
Hatidze Muratova, Hussein Sam
DOCUMENTARY DRAMA FOREIGN LANGUAGE #HONEYLAND
A friend recently commented that she goes to world music festivals to experience something she would not feel anywhere else. HONEYLAND is her kind of film. A docu-drama about bee-keeping in a remote corner of North Macedonia, this 86 minute gem is something you’ll never have seen, or felt, before. Perhaps you never will again.
Hatidze looks after with her aged, ailing mother in a shack in the mountains of North Macedonia, far from the nearest village, far from the capital Sofia. There’s no electricity or running water, only a subsistence life with bees providing any source of income. Hatidze’s tends the bees and their honey is worth good money on her rare trips to the market. She buys essential food, medicine for her mother, and the occasional treat.
This ‘idyllic’ life is turned upside down when a nomadic family take over the crumbling property next door. They arrive with dogs, cattle, a caravan, several noisy kids and a chaotic, disruptive way of life. They see the financial value of bee-keeping, but fail to understand the care and respect Hatidze shows for nature’s rhythms. Disaster visits the colony.
Ostensibly a documentary, HONEYLAND has been crafted around a central narrative that gives the film a sense of purpose, and is much compelling for it. It opens with sequences so stunningly beautiful they appear to be art directed (they’re not) and draw you immediately into this strange, wonderful land with all the allure and surprise of travelogues in the 1950’s - who knew the world could be so familiar yet so mysterious and, well, deliciously foreign?
In documenting a year of Hatidze’s life, one cycle of seasons in her remote corner of Europe, the film’s directors create an unparalleled experience that seeks to draw a conversation about how we treat ourselves, our neighbours and our planet. As parables go, the messaging is clear and simple, the story-telling is tantalising and utterly absorbing. HONEYLAND is an astonishing achievement, the kind of film that touches you in ways that you’ve never felt before. And perhaps never will again.