Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5.
Republic Of North Macedonia, 2019. Apolo Media, Trice Films. Screenplay by Tamara Kotevska, Ljubomir Stefanov. Cinematography by Fejmi Daut, Samir Ljuma. Produced by Atanas Georgiev, Ljubomir Stefanov. Music by Foltin. Film Editing by Atanas Georgiev. Academy Awards 2019. Boston Film Critics 2019. New York Film Critics Awards 2019. Washington Film Critics Awards 2019.
Hatidze Muratova lives in a tiny village in the mountains of North Macedonia, hunting for wild bees and collecting their honey which she periodically takes to the city of Skopje to sell. She enjoys a tranquil life, a solitary existence but not a miserably lonely one when you see her small figure placed in context with the vast, fascinating landscape that she wanders, looking for bees before going home to look after her ailing, aged mother. When a family moves into the property next to hers, it perks up Hatidze’s spirits with the promise of company and society: nomadic ranchers, like her they are Turkish in origin and soon they are all spending time together. The patriarch of the family, Hussein Sam, wants to get into beekeeping, but unlike our heroine he practices more traditional forms of collecting honey and ignores her warning not to overly farm the bees: you take half and you leave half, she tells them, if you take too much the bees will die and there will be nothing at the next harvest. Hussein doesn’t heed Hatidze’s warning and his overtaxed bees start threatening her own, putting her in a difficult position of having to defend her way of life while trying to still maintain a connection with a family she’s grown to care about. Directors Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov discovered Muratova while researching an environmental documentary, returning to see her for a few days at a time over three years and gathering footage that they have seamlessly woven into a fascinating examination of human interaction with nature. Hatidze makes for a wonderful, charismatic presence, humorous and lively and completely submerged in the daily rhythm of her life with her bees, Kotevska and Stefanov celebrate her striking physical presence and make it as vibrant as the stunning geographical beauty surrounding her. The Sam family are not presented as villains, but are rather the mirror image of her own relationship to the natural world, sympathetic for their need to thrive but tragic in their inability to see how they harm themselves in their ignoring the needs of the creatures they are exploiting. Unforgettable in its detail and devastating in its humanity, this is exceptional as both informative documentary and as an expressive, potent work of art.