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The end of an idyll
Halter, Cineuropa, 22/02/2013
15 years of absence, Swiss director Markus Imhoof (Das Boot ist voll) is back
with a documentary that exceeds all expectations, and not only in the box
More Than Honey is a deeply disturbing work, which
benefits from lucid narration.
According to the words of industrial beekeeper John Miller, we could be
facing "Death on an epic scale". For
the past few years, he has observed the disappearance of bees on a global scale,
and his own hives are no exception.
bee disappears from the surface of the Earth, man would have no more than four
years left to live.” -- Einstein
does things on a grand scale, transporting his bees by truck across the United
States to then set them free in huge plantations, of almonds for example. “What
you hear is the sound of money,” he says happily, listening to the buzzing sound
coming from a flowery landscape, almost surreal, which stretches as far as the
eye can see.
Nevertheless, these long trips are a great source of stress
for the insects, which are not made for monocultures and suffer from the
pesticides. But that is not enough to prevent Miller from pursuing his intensive
breeding – despite a few pangs of conscience, he will not give up his
“If the bee disappears from the surface of the Earth, man would
have no more than four years left to live.” Einstein.
All over the world
bees have been dying for the past three years. Although the causes for this are
still a mystery, one thing is already clear: there is more at stake than simply
a few dead insects, and a great deal more than just honey. Seeking answers, the
film embarks on a journey to meet with people whose lives depend on bees: to a
Swiss beekeeper living on an Alp; to the gigantic almond plantations in
California; to a bee brain researcher in Berlin; to a pollen trader in China;
and to the killer bees in the Arizona desert. All report on how the bees are
vanishing. The film tells us about their lives. And about
More Than Honey
original title: More Than
country: Switzerland, Germany,
sales agent: Films
directed by: Markus
film run: 91'
Markus Imhoof, Kerstin Hoppenhaus
Jörg Jeshel, Attila Boa
film editing: Anne
MoreThan Honey is much more than a captivating
study of nature, stunning in its use of macro shots. With the meticulous skill
of a detective, Markus Imhoof investigates the causes of the disappearance of
bees and familiarizes the spectator with their highly complex social life.
As the descendant of a family of beekeepers himself, his
endeavour takes him around the world, from Europe to China, and through
Australia. He there meets his daughter, who, with her husband, is carrying out
research on the immune system of bees, with the hope of developing a new breed
with higher chances of survival.
Like the majority of good documentaries, MoreThan
Honey owes a great deal to its protagonists. We therefore get to
know John Miller, who, while pinpointing the inherent contradictions in his own
activity, still appears as likable. At the other end of the spectrum, we
discover Fred Jaggi, a beekeeper from central Switzerland, who tries to preserve
the purity of the local breed, and two Austrian breeders who send queen bees by
post all over the world.
A Review from
Man is the antagonist. Most beekeepers love their
animals but caught in economic necessity they have to demand peak performance.
That applies for the charming Austrian queen breeder Heidrun Singer as well as
to the American beekeeper John Miller, who sends his 15.000 colonies all over
the continent, following the bloom of economic plants. Beebroker John Traynor
pulls the strings. He negotiates between farmers, beekeepers and the global
market – which rules over plant, men, animal and machine alike.
In a frightening similarity they all succumbed to its all
embracing power. The bees are confronted with new challenges all the time,
having to take on new burdens. What we mistake for nature turns out to be a
contaminated agricultural wasteland. But even the paradise of the Alps offers no
respite: Fred Jaggi kills bees that are not purebred – whilst the pure races die
from centuries of inbreeding. The longer the film observes man and bee, the more
likely it seems that this live, determined by outside forces, must end in a
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