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Film / Honeyland

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Honeyland is a 2019 film from North Macedonia directed by Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov.

It is a documentary. Hatidze Muratova is a woman in her early fifties who lives in the remote countryside, where she ekes out a precarious living as a beekeeper. She goes on long, dangerous treks across a wide plain and along a narrow cliff side trail to a particular nook in the cliff face where a colony of bees lives. Hatidze retrieves chunks of beehive and takes them back to her stone hut, eventually extracting honey and selling it by the jar in the big city. When she isn't doing that, she's caring for her elderly, frail mother Nazife, who is well into her 80s.

A family of nomadic herders, the Sams, take up residence next door. Family patriarch Hussein Sam asks Hatidze some questions about beekeeping. Soon enough Hussein, who has quite a large family to provide for, is keeping bees himself. His reckless manner of beekeeping, in which he takes all the honey rather than leave some for the bees, eventually threatens Hatidze's livelihood.

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Tropes:

  • Antenna Adjusting: In one scene Hussein is nailing a metal plate to a pole. It's not immediately clear what he's doing, but once he's done he's shown sticking the plate up next to their camper to serve as an antenna for their radio. Near the end Hatidze does the same thing so she can listen to music.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Nazife dies and Hatidze has to bury her. Her bees are pretty much wiped out, thanks to Hussein. For that matter, the bulk of Hussein's herd of cattle has died. But Hatidze perseveres, going back to the mountain to get more bees as the film ends.
  • Blade-of-Grass Cut: Several extreme closeups of bees swarming around beehives and cages, as well as an extreme closeup of two bees crawling around a leaf, which itself is dipping into a pool of water.
  • Book-Ends: The film opens with Hatidze taking a long trek across the plain and then a shockingly dangerous creep over a narrow cliff path, to a nook where she gets some bees from a hive. It ends with her doing the same thing, this time in winter with snow that makes the hike across the cliff even more dangerous.
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  • Chiaroscuro: Hatidze's home is lit only by candles or oil lamps at night, leading to some high-contrast light-and-dark shots as she talks with her mother.
  • Cute Kitten: Hatidze gives one of Hussein's little daughters a kitten.
  • Desert Skull: It isn't a desert, but the barren, harsh nature of the Macedonian mountains is emphasized by the cow skull that can be seen by a stream as Hatidze goes back up into the mountains.
  • Documentary: The life of a beekeeper in rural Macedonia. Done fly-on-the-wall style without traditional documentary trappings like a Narrator or Talking Heads.
  • Lonely Funeral: Pretty much an Enforced Trope as no one else lives near to Hatidze, but still, she is the only one there to bury her mother.
  • Match Cut: From young men wrestling at some sort of local community festival, to two of Hussein's sons doing the same back at home.
  • Scenery Porn: Some jaw-dropping shots of the rolling hills and mountains of North Macedonia that would make David Lean jealous.
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