HONEYLAND – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

0 Flares 0 Flares ×

The best saints are those who would strenuously deny that they are one. That is because their basic humanity is so hard-wired inside their being, they don’t have to think about how to treat others or how to not abuse what Mother Nature has provided us. Kindness, consideration and decency are just how they roll, no matter the hardships and negativity that might arise in their lives.

Hatidze Muratova, the 55-year-old Macedonian beekeeper at the center of Honeyland, directed by Ljubomir Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska, is one of those special creatures. She is the star of this cautionary saga of how abusing the environment and not taking responsibility for your actions will come back to bite you.

At first, we get to appreciate her rustic existence among a glorious hilly landscape as she tends to her half-blind and bed-ridden mother and hangs out with her hound dog and a couple of cats in her cozy abode. We initially get to see how this apiary whisperer as she carefully collects honey from a colony that is secured inside a nearby stone wall. She sings and talks to the buzzy mob without getting stung, making sure to leave half the honey behind for the bees. Hatidze takes a train to a market in Skopje, where vendors will gladly pay for her delicious wares. She buys food and other practical goods. But I love that she has one lone vanity. While she usually wears a colorful scarf for her head, Hatidze splurges on chestnut-hued hair dye to hide her gray locks.

But her mostly idyllic life is interrupted by the arrival of Hussein, his wife, Ljutvie and their large brood of rambunctious children. Turns out they speak Turkish, just like Hatidze. She initially welcomes their presence and treats the children well, as she plays with the toddlers and shows her beekeeping ropes to one of the older boys.

Hussein, however, puts little effort into learning about the land he is occupying, the cows he is herding and, yes, the bees that he is keeping in large boxes in the hopes of cashing in. But unlike Hatidze, he bumbles his way through the process and he and his unpaid family work force are duly stung, both literally and metaphorically, as he blames everyone but himself for his mistakes. Eventually, he selfishly ends up doing harm to Hatidze’s source of income as well.

While the filmmakers were tasked with looking at conservation efforts in the region, they lucked into a timely cautionary tale when it comes to the damage done by those who have little regard for anyone but their own welfare. What is on screen is a poetic microcosm of what happens when self-serving enterprises become the norm while those who care are pushed aside.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Honeyland is AWFJ’s Movie of the Week for August 2, 2019

0 Flares Twitter 0 Facebook 0 0 Flares ×

Susan Wloszczyna

In her nearly 30 years at USA Today, Susan Wloszczyna interviewed everyone from Vincent Price and Shirley Temple to Julia Roberts and Will Smith. Her coverage specialties include animation, musicals, comedies and any film starring Hayley Mills, Sandy Dennis or hobbits. Her crowning career achievements so far, besides having Terence Stamp place his bare feet in her lap during an interview for The Limey, is convincing the paper to send her to New Zealand twice for set visits, once for The Return of the King and the other for The Chronicles of Narnia and King Kong, and getting to be a zombie extra and interview George Romero in makeup on the set for Land of the Dead. Though not impressive enough for Pulitzer consideration, she also can be blamed for coining the moniker "Frat Pack," often used to describe the comedy clique that includes Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell. Her positions have included Life section copy desk chief for four years and a film reviewer for 12 years. She is currently a contributor for the online awards site Gold Derby and is an Oscar expert for RogerEbert.com. Previously, she has been a freelance film reporter and critic, contributing regularly to RogerEbert.com, MPAA’s The Credits, the Washington Post, AARP The Magazine online and Indiewire as well as being a book reviewer for The Buffalo News. She previously worked as a feature editor at the Niagara Gazette in Niagara Falls, N.Y. A Buffalo native, she earned her bachelor's degree in English at Canisius College and a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.