‘Honeyland’ Is A Haunting Portrait Of A Dying Way Of Life [Sundance Review]

There is an unassuming languidness to Ljubomir Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska’s anthropologic documentary about a rural Macedonian beekeeper, “Honeyland.” It’s a quiet and passive film that’s content to luxuriate in place and revel in solitude, which, in turn, both drags the narrative’s loose pacing and instills a certain natural structure that, once embraced, becomes almost mesmerizing.

“Honeyland,” as it begins, is a sort of documentation of a disappearing way of life. Hatidze Muratova, a 50-something woman, is, along with her ill mother Nazife, the last true resident of their rural village. Hatidze spends her time caring for her bees — which she keeps in the stone walls of old structures and in the rocks of cliffs instead of modern bee boxes — and for her mother. Her approach to beekeeping is deeply spiritual and environmentally conscious. This consciousness, though, is not the progressive sort. Instead, it feels rooted in deep tradition and respect for both the bees and the natural world itself. Though she sells her honey in markets in Skopje, Macedonia’s capital city, she refuses to collect more than half of her bees’ honey at a time. Some for us, some for them, she says, time and again.

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