In addition to being an amazing parable of 21st century attitudes, “Honeyland” is beautifully photographed. (Neon)

In addition to being an amazing parable of 21st century attitudes, “Honeyland” is beautifully photographed. (Neon)

‘Honeyland’ richly deserves its multiple Oscar nominations

This film about a Macedonian beekeeper is a parable of sustainability versus greed.

It was a footnote to the Oscar nominations this year, but an intriguing one: A tiny little movie from North Macedonia became the first film ever nominated in both the documentary and foreign-language categories.

From very early in “Honeyland,” it’s clear why the voters were moved. Not only is this a distinctive study in character and location, it’s also beautifully shot.

Then the movie keeps going, and evolving, and suddenly it seems to be about everything in the world—a parable of the 21st century played out across a few acres of scrubby land in Eastern Europe.

We’re in rural Macedonia, where Hatidze Muratova lives in a couple of huts with her aged and bedridden mother. Hatidze is a beekeeper, tending her rustic hives and selling her artisanal honey in the city.

She is, obviously, closely connected to the land, although she also indulges in the vanity of spending some of her honey earnings on hair dye.

Her philosophy about the bees is “Half for you, half for me.” She leaves lots of honey behind, because she doesn’t want her bee colonies to collapse.

You watch these scenes and marvel at how filmmakers Ljubomir Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska achieved the level of intimacy they obviously have with their subjects. Had the film been only about this, it would be impressive.

Then the neighbors move in.

Hatidze’s quiet world is disrupted by a nomadic family called the Sams, a sprawling clan who bring their trailer (and herd of grazing cattle) and set up camp nearby. The family’s utterly incompetent patriarch gets interested in the way Hatidze seems to be making money from bees, and she helps him learn the craft.

If you recall the adage that no good deed goes unpunished, you might guess where this is going. But “Honeyland” is amazing in the way it brings to life a human dilemma: between people who have developed a way of getting along with the world that makes life sustainable, and people who will cash in for short-term profit and exterminate the source of their own income — at which point they move along to the next thing to destroy.

All of this is done without narration or heavy-handed emphasis. The story unfolds in a way that’s sometimes sad, sometimes funny, sometimes hard to watch. So many documentaries labor to find something uplifting to say; this one just lays it all out there for us.

Nice postscript, too: The prize money from various film festivals (including two awards at last year’s Sundance) have allowed the filmmakers to buy a new house for Hatidze. There may be another movie waiting to happen there.

“Honeyland” (3½ stars)

An Oscar nominee in both the documentary and foreign-language categories, this is an immersive look at the life of a beekeeper in rural Macedonia. Which would be interesting by itself, but when new neighbors move nearby, the film turns into an amazing parable of 21st century attitudes and disasters. In Macedonian and Turkish, with English subtitles.

Rating: Not rated; probably PG-13 for subject matter

Opening Friday: Grand Illusion

Talk to us

More in Life

Cinderella_Red.jpg: Red Riding Hood (Katelynn Carlson) gets advice from Cinderella (Grace Helmcke) in Red Curtain’s production of Into the Woods, running May 20-June 5 at the Red Curtain Arts Center, 9315 State Ave. in Marysville.
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

Marysville troupe stages a Stephen Sondheim musical masterpiece. Jazz, featuring the sons of legend Dave Brubeck, takes over Edmonds. And there’s this music festival in downtown Everett …

Sam Bowles records the run off the water from a chalk drawing with friend and co-artist, Rhyanna Mercer, Tuesday afternoon in Everett, Washington on May 10, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Jackson High’s global TikTok star is chalk full of ideas

Sam Bowles, 18, uses vibrant videos and social media fame to raise awareness of autism.

Lonicera ciliosa, commonly called orange honeysuckle or western trumpet vine. (Richie Steffen)
Great Plant Pick: orange honeysuckle

Its orange trumpets announce spring is here, and hummingbirds are irresistibly drawn to it.

Home & garden happenings in Snohomish County

The Mill Creek Garden Tour will return this summer after a two-year absence due to COVID-19.

Photo Caption: Would you believe a zipper sold for $18,450 at Morphy Auctions? What about a diamond necklace that looks and works like a zipper?
X-Y-Z spells ‘big money’ with this high-fashion zipper

It’s actually a necklace, but the zipper function works. Someone paid nearly $18,500 for it at a recent auction.

The signature retro VW bus is on display at the Lamb & Co. home decor store Saturday afternoon in Snohomish, Washington on January 8, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
This Snohomish store has the goods from HGTV’s ‘Unsellable House’

Take home the design and decor savvy of hometown real estate twins Lyndsay Lamb and Leslie Davis.

The 2022 Infiniti QX60 Sensory has seating for seven. Heated outboard second-row seats and power-return third-row seats are standard equipment. (Manufacturer photo)
Infiniti QX60 Sensory model doesn’t play second fiddle

The new Autograph version tops the 2022 lineup, but this previous headliner holds its own.

Caption: Originally published in The Weekly Herald, “I Brake for Moms” has been running for ten years.
Ten years of columns later, a celebration of place, journalism

Jennifer Bardsley reflects on writing 520 installments of “I Brake for Moms.”

Joel Smallbone, left, and Luke Smallbone, right, of the group for King & Country, performs during the Dove Awards on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

The award-winning Christian pop duo For King & Country performs in Everett on Saturday.

Most Read