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Film Review: Honeyland

by Ljubomir Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska
reviewed by Bilge Ebiri
A still from the movie Honeyland

In a rugged corner of Macedonia, Europe’s last wild beekeeper plies her trade, harvesting honey not from organized hives but from naturally occurring, remote locations — on an outcrop on the side of a cliff, say, perched dangerously high. Committed to a sustainable relationship with the land, she takes half and leaves half for the bees. 

Shot over three years, Ljubomir Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska’s striking, elemental documentary follows Hatidze Muratova, an ethnically Turkish beekeeper who lives in a small, run-down stone house with her frail, elderly mother. Theirs is a life close to the earth, but also heartbreakingly rough; much of the movie’s interiors are shot by candlelight. The filmmakers capture the intimacy of their existence, as well as the forbidding beauty of this land. 

They also portray the complexity of a society in transition: Soon, Hatidze and her mother’s spare, lonely lives are upended by a raucous Turkish family who moves in next door. The newcomers also begin to harvest honey, though not in a way that is remotely as responsible as Hatidze’s approach. The growing clash between these two modes of existence—both driven by extreme poverty and desperation—becomes symbolic of broader economic and social challenges in today’s world. The result is a film that is as complex and resonant as it is visually magnificent. 

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