We all know there is a problem with bees. They have been reducing rapidly in numbers over the last fifteen years. We don’t know what has caused this to happen, but what we do know is that depending on the regions of the world, between 50-90% of the bees have disappeared!
Now either they are starting one mega colony which actually, we should all be scared of, or they are vanishing into thin air. The latter is much more likely. What we’re seeing is that billions of bees (for some unknown reason) leave their hives never to return. Here in the UK as well as other parts of Europe, this is being dubbed the “Mary Celeste Phenomenon” after the name of the of the ship who’s crew vanished in 1872.
In More than Honey, director Markus Imhoof uses this topic to shoot a global film to discover the lives of bees from around the world and the bee keepers who look after them in a number of different ways, shapes and forms. This film isn’t just observatory, it also looks at each of the bee keepers attitudes towards the decline of the bees and also how they are going for and against nature to maintain their on colony – whether this be right or wrong.
What is fascinating about this project is that you really learn so much about the intricacies of the bee community. Imhoof goes from the idyllic Swiss Alps to visit Fred Jaggi who maintains an age-old tradition of bee keeping in the way his father and his fathers father did. There is passion and also ruthlessness in which he maintains the best of his beehive by taking fearless measures such as decapitating the queen bee when she is seen as ‘lazily’ breeding half breed stock!
On the other end of the spectrum, from one man to a million machines, in the US we follow John Miller who maintains a schoolboy like level of excitement for his bees. Beyond all this however we learn how bees pollinate the trees that start the process for a multi million dollar almond business, and how the use of mixed chemicals to keep the trees ripe and fresh cause havoc amongst the bee community killing them stone dead once sprayed, something that could be avoided altogether if the process of the machines could change to night instead of day. However, John himself is not a big enough voice to make change happen alone and at the end of the day, as much as he loves bees, he loves his job more.
These are only a couple of examples of the protagonists Imhoof meets on his journey, from Arizona to Australia and China he has travelled around the world in search of the secret behind the bees decline. Although he hasn’t quite unraveled the answer, what he has done is create a compelling set of stories which can open the eyes of a wider audience to the importance of the bee community around the world. With John Hurt narrating, you feel (particularly during the expertly filmed close ups of inside a hive) that you are watching a mix of Attenborough’s ‘Life’ and an intimate portrayal of human passion and dedication to a species taken too far for granted.
More Than Honey buzzes into cinemas on 6th September and is on limited release.