Once in a while, a film comes out that utterly defies expectations, Honeyland is one of these. The synopsis – a portrait of a beekeeper in remote Macedonia – is oddball enough to attract attention. It is a beautiful, painterly work, shot with composed precision akin to Dutch Old Master treatments of light and shadow. It is also a capsule of the collision of slow, traditional time and the urgency of making a buck.
Hatidze, born in 1964 and with a face like ancient rock mirroring the surrounding landscape, lives in a crumbling, abandoned village in Macedonia, where she tends to her beehive and looks after her aged mother. Hers is a slow life, singing to the bees and making the occasional journey to Skopje to sell honey. One day, a Turkish speaking family arrives and it’s mostly harmonious at first, but increasingly disruptive. Eventually, her way of life is overcome by the family’s seeming disregard for the ethos of husbandry. Still there is no good or bad – everyone needs to survive however they can.
Filmmakers Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov set out to make a documentary about Hatidze, but over three years of shooting found more drama and pathos than anticipated. The result is possibly one of the best movies to see this year. Melancholy, joyful and unexpectedly relatable, it’s unforgettable.
Reviewed by Olga Azar