Honeyland – Review [Hot Docs 2019]

Honeyland screened at this year’s Hot Docs Film Festival. Neon will release the film later this year.

[Ed. Note: Being that TV and City is on a bit of a hiatus, this article has not been edited.]

By David Cuevas

Winning three awards at Sundance, and continuously gathering hype from each passing festival, Neon’s Honeyland is a film that unfortunately doesn’t match the buzz as advertised from previous events, but is still an applaudable achievement in basic storytelling and craftsmanship.

Unlike any normal documentary, Honeyland feels fictional in presentation. We follow the day in the life of Hatidze, the last female wild beekeeper in Europe, who takes care of her mother, in the confines of an isolated mountain region, located in the balkans. The film plays on the concept of a cautionary tale, utilizing the most out of a predictable formula of an impending modernized force attacking and colonizing a traditional form of culture. The difference here? What happens in Honeyland is all real, and live for us too see. We witness a turkish family moving alongside Hatidze, as they both gather to produce honey and other natural products, in order to strive within the tight European economy. We see the clash of both customs, the sustainability of nature, being simultaneously shattered in the process.

The film has plenty of riveting moments like these, that it’s almost a shame how simple the film ended up being. Albeit effective, Honeyland could have easily used more depth and a stronger narrative, to hold together its message of environmental precaution and farming. Destined to become a crowd pleaser, while meandering in presentation, Honeyland is an effective but short documentary that utilizes the most out of its self-contained narrative.

I give Honeyland a B-.