“Honeyland” wows with gripping story of environmental struggle

Macedonian movie “Honeyland” delves into human duality as it examines how we choose to treat the environment.

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The documentary “Honeyland” begins with a stunning portrait of the Macedonian countryside, focusing in on beekeeper Hatidze Muratova as she makes her way to her beehives. Hatidze’s passion for her craft quickly becomes evident as she collects the honey, singing to the bees before returning home to her small village. There we meet Nazife Muratova, Hatidze’s aging mother and only other human companion in the surrounding deserted area.

Within these first few moments, Hatidze’s compelling personality allures the audience and encourages them to further observe her unique lifestyle. She goes through life with a cheerful disposition that makes even the most mundane of activities interesting. In doing so, she immediately becomes a likeable protagonist full of charm and charisma.

Just when it seems as though we have a good understanding of Hatidze’s life and her passion, struggle and opposition arrive in the form of another family looking to utilize the natural life in the area. The calm, caring moments of before are quickly forgotten as we are instead presented with those of fear and violence. Rhythmic bee buzzing and soft singing are drowned out by the startled cries of cattle and angry yells from those who are seemingly determined to deal with them in the most abusive manner possible.

Though, at first, Hatidze tries to remain jovial and friendly, things decline rapidly as her new neighbors begin to jeopardize her own living. In comparing how both of these cultivators treat the world around them, the film creates a sort of parallel that can almost be seen as a warning to audiences everywhere. In an age of increasingly important environmental awareness, “Honeyland” condemns the neglect of nature and instead opts to showcase how kindness and caring can benefit the world around us.

In spite of her frustrating conditions, Hatidze’s life maintains a few glimmers of hope among all its struggles. Hatidze continues to be kind and gentle when she can, especially toward one of her neighbor’s sons who has taken an interest in her way of doing things. She remains optimistic, a beacon of hope in the turbulent world around her, and goes about finding ways to work around the new roadblock in her business. When the family moves, disappointed by their overall failure in the fields, Hatidze works hard to repair what she lost and build a new future.

Just as everything seems to be looking up, Hatidze is hit with one last shock and mourns yet another loss in her life. In spite of all she has lost, she looks toward what life may soon offer her and appreciates all that still remains after what happened prior. Fading out on the mystification of Hatidze as she eats the last of the honey she farmed, we as the viewers are instilled with a new hope that proves things are not so bleak despite how they seem on today’s planet.

Edited by Joe Cross | jcross@themaneater.com

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