(director/writer: Ljubomir Stefanov, Tamara Kotevska; cinematographers: Fejmi Daut, Samir Ljuma; editor: Atanas Georgiev; music: Foltin (Branislav Nikolov, Goce Jovanovski, Pece Trajkovski); cast: Hatidze Muratova, Nazife Muratova, Hussein Sam, Ljutvie Sam, Mustafa Sam; Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Ljubomir Stefanov, Atanas Georgiev; NEON; 2019-Republic of Macedonia-in Turkish with English subtitles)

“Awesome documentary.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A visually sumptuous and keenly observed documentary that morphs into being about the relations between nature and people. It was shot over a three-year period, and was initially commissioned as a video for an environmental project. The awesome documentary, set in the remote mountains of Macedonia, is brilliantly co-directed in their feature film debut by documentarians Ljubomir Stefanov & Tamara Kotevska.

Initially the film observes the routines of the wise traditional wild beekeeper Hatidze Muratova, who even chants to the bees to get more honey. She lives in a sparsely populated Macedonian village with her ill mum Nazife. During her days she walks the stunningly gorgeous countryside to do her bee keeping duties for her hard-to-reach hives or collects honey to sell in the capital, Skopje (which takes her a half-day to walk to or is much quicker when she takes the bus). At night she usually just stays home and talks with her half-blind mum, in their very small hut that has no modern conveniences or running water.

Hatidze’s primitive but calm and settled life is greatly upset when her new neighbors are an arrogant itinerant Turkish couple, Hussein and Ljutvie, with seven noisy children and cattle, who not only disturb her peace but by not following the traditional methods of beekeeping destroy a great deal of her hives. In the hopes of restoring order to her home life, Hatidze tries to form a relationship with the unruly children and tries to help Hussein raise some hives of his own. But Hussein can’t listen to her sound advice, as he mentions that he is under tremendous economic pressure due to arrangements he made to sell the honey and starts taking more honey from the bees than is necessary to complete his business deals.

Since this is not a fiction documentary, the film crew must have earned the respect from all the parties being filmed who never seemed to notice the cameras–giving natural performance whether looking bad or in a joyful situation. Though Hussein seems to be making poor decisions, causing chaos and driven by greed, we also can see him as a victim of an economic system that goes against the little guy. We also learn why such rural communities are rapidly going under and their populations dwindling, as people see more opportunities in the city and are moving there in droves.

The film builds in tension to a sad but hopeful resolution, in a film that surprised me about how emotional it became.It won the World Documentary Grand Jury prize at Sundance.

REVIEWED ON 7/25/2019       GRADE: A