Round 6, Pick 7, March 21 Lisa “Honeyland” Category: Documentary.
“Take half, leave half.” –
Hatidze Muratova, Bee Hunter
I’ve watched a lot of good documentaries over the years, but instead of reaching for one of those I decided to do a google search for one I hadn’t seen that sounded intriguing. “Honeyland,” released in 2019, was available through the library. After watching it I knew I wanted to choose it to review.
Set in the Republic of North Macedonia, in the rural village of Bekirlijia, some 55 km southeast of North Macedonia’s capital city, Skopje. The languages spoken in it are Turkish, Bosnian, Macedonian, and Serbo-Croatian. The film crew spent thr ee years there filming.
“Honeyland” tells the story of Hatidze Muratova, known as, “the last female bee-hunter in Europe.” Hatidze lives with her old and ill mother, Nazife, in a small, stone one-room
structure that doesn’t have much more in it than a bed for her mother, a small cookstove, and a window that looks like it remains open year-round, even when it snows. They have a medium-sized whippet-looking dog and a couple of scroungy cats that live with them. Hatidze has never married and has no children. In the telling of the story it is learned that during the time suitors were coming, Hatidze’s father sent them all away.
Nazife is bedridden and doesn’t go outside anymore. One of her eyes is seriously messed up and is kept covered much of the time. A fan is given for her at the market by one of the vendors to help her keep the flies away from her eye.
What is striking about the “village” they live in is that it is full of abandoned stone structures, walls, where they are the only people left. The town where she goes to trade is some distance away and involves walking to where a bus stops and she can ride in.
Hatidze’s skill is bee-hunter and dare I say bee farmer. She walks everywhere, to her hidden places where the bees are busy at work. She places old dung in nooks and crannies in the hills and rocks then covers them up. She has hive-shaped structures that she uses to transport hives from place to place. When the time is right, she harvests the honey, always taking only half. There is a waterway/pond/lake nearby so water is available. What is amazing is there appears to be little available vegetation for the bees to collect pollen from to make all of the honey they make. Hatidze is not only a bee farmer but she is a bee whisperer. The bees know her and are never alarmed when she approaches them.
It’s a simple life. It’s a rough life. But it is in balance. That is until a caravan of vehicles and travel trailers arrives with a husband and wife, Hussein and Ljutvie Sam and their passel of kids, along with a herd of cattle and some pitiful looking cats. They set up their camp very close to Hatidze and Nazife’s place. The family is doing its best to survive but their way of living is disorganized and chaotic. The children are good kids but are pretty much allowed to go feral. The family is abusive and neglectful to their animals. Hussein’s conversations with Hatidze reveal that she is a bee-hunter and she makes the mistake of showing Hussein one of her hives. Immediately he sees dollar signs and finds a way to buy bee-keeping boxes. He becomes deaf to Hatidze’s advice, and when a pushy relative comes to visit and demands more honey than he can afford to take from his hives to pay off debts, disaster strikes.
The Sam Family
image link: https://theartsdesk.com/node/83861/view
As I was reading comments on the movie, one person said that people frequently identify with either Hatidze’s perspective or with the Sam Family’s perspective. Things are rarely that clear cut, and I can see where both sides are coming from.
Things I like about the movie are that it profiles one extraordinary woman’s life journey and how she survives in the most inhospitable environment by respecting its ways and living in harmony with it. I really like the relationship and conversations between Hatidze and her mother and how she cares for her mother at the end of her mother’s life cycle.
Things I didn’t like about the movie is the rough and neglectful way the parents were with their children and as a result the rough and neglectful way the children were with their animals. There are a few difficult scenes to watch and at one point I turned it off. It took me a day to go back to it as I needed to know what happened.
Lessons: when I think I have it rough, I will remember how tough the families in “Honeyland” have it and consider myself blessed. On the other hand to live free, off the grid, and as one with nature does have its allure.
Awards information: 37 wins and 51 nominations
Rating from 1 – 10: 8
I really wanted to know what happened to Hatidze after the filming ended. Per imdb: Hatidze [now] lives in a village that is close to her brother relatives. She wanted to live in the nearby village so she could still tend to her bees and have a warm place to live during the winter. The home she lives in was purchased for her by the documentary filmmakers after they won their first award at the Sarajevo film festival.