COLONY (2009) – Documentary Review

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colony posterBeekeepers haul their wooden bee hive boxes across the US, providing an essential service to farmers who rely on honey bees to pollinate their crops. However the entire enterprise and way of life is now threatened by a mysterious phenomenon called ‘bee colony collapse disorder,’ marked by the death and disappearance of millions of bees. By following several beekeepers as they struggle to sustain their colonies and way of life, and presenting close up views of activity within the hives, Colony provides a fascinating overview of an essential yet endangered element of agricultural production.

The Life of the Colony

Filmmakers Carter Gunn and Ross McDonnell spent 18 months following the Seppi family of Pixley, California, as they move their hives from place to place, trying to prevent loss to ‘bee colony collapse’ and to maintain prices for their pollination services as the economy continues in a downward spiral.
The Seppi family, all of whom are devout fundamentalist Christians, serves as an interesting focal point for the film because of their fascinating family dynamic, which is almost bee colony-like in its approach to the beekeeping business. Everyone has a specific job or function, and the social order is disturbed when the family must renegotiate fees with farmers who claim that they cannot meet the terms to which they’d initially agreed.

The Endangered World of Bees

That their dilemma reflects the overall plight of beekeepers is made clear through interviews with beekeeper association spokespersons, agri-experts and others who’re working in the field — including one man whose face is obscured by bees during the interview — and understand the far reaching effects of ‘colony collapse disorder.’ We see that while they’re appealing to insecticide chemists and manufacturers and government officials for help in resolving the ‘colony collapse’ issue, they’re also genuinely concerned that beekeeping may no longer be a sustainable business. And, they question, if beekeeping goes, what will become of the farmers who rely on their services, and of the nation’s food supply?

Profiling the Colony

Colony is also a terrific primer about the ways of bees. With extraordinary cinematography, the filmmakers capture close up images of the bees at work in the hive, swarming and making their way through the flowers which they are cross pollinating. Voice over narration provides an excellent explanation of the hive’s social order and overall behavior. The extent of the complexity of the colony’s social organization is absolutely incredible. It’s something you’ll be thinking about for a long time after seeing the film.
Colony provides no easy answers, but it does send out an alarm about the seriousness of the situation. You realize that bees are quite essential to our way of life and our economy, and will want to investigate what you might be able to do to help. Simply put: we must take steps to prevent further disappearance of the bees!

If You Like This Film, You May Also Like:

Queen of the Sun: The Endangered World of Bees
More Than Honey
The Cove
Arctic Tale
Winged Migration
Earth Days
Jane’s Journey

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