The result is a film that’s in equal measure gripping and frustrating, a work of nonfiction in which the elision of many factual elements, in the interest of compact dramaturgy, makes an extraordinary true story feel fabricated.
The narrative that emerges (steadily) from beautiful compositions and impressionist B-roll is solid: comparative notions of modernity, a friendship between neighbors turned tense, and a sense of how to live off the land, you should respect it. But its implied insistence on an invisible camera—that there isn't a crew right there deciding how to frame it—reminded me how much Land Without Bread is still a corrective.
Honeyland is set in an isolated region with no electricity and a down-to-earth woman. There is no added music or cheap effects but still there is a trick : what seems to be a very written narrative or at least a constructed story. The directors wanted «Honeyland» to become a metaphor for something bigger, a state of the world, a commentary. Those intentions behind the images hurt the beauty of the original material.
A perfect example of a microcosm that thematically represents the struggles of the macrocosm; greed, survival, capitalism, family and modernity vs tradition. It's all anchored by a rich and vividly rendered central character who's a beacon of empathy, living in a harsh and isolated part of the world. Top marks to the crew who shot this on DLSR's over several years living in tents. 4 stars.
3.5 - I don't even have a problem with documentaries that stage some stuff (Hi, Herzog) but "Honeyland" feels like it goes too far with a too-neat Hollywood structure and an invisible crew that kind of SCREAMS at you that they're not there. But if you leave all that aside, you get 90 mesmerizing minutes of the simplest and most effective political allegory with a great protagonist in the beekeeper Hatidze Muratova.
Honeyland was a bleak end to my MIFF. The story is perfect, clear-eyed allegory for colonialism, climate change and generational difference, but it's a documentary. Uniquely, the filmmaker's unobtrusive eye captures a story that feels like a narrative, with lovely character moments, villains and complexity. It's power sneaks up on you, until suddenly you find yourself in awe at what the filmmakers have achieved.
Without context, Western audiences are primed to bemoan the Turkish family without considering their own lack of one-to-one consumption. Such thematic potency you almost wonder... a beautiful depiction of tactility, of presence and surroundings, and importantly our treatment of animals. Good double with Peter and the Farm?
3.5. Interesting... but. But the whole thing is too staged: the neat, tidy little drama of it rings false. The non-actors are too at ease being filmed. The filmmakers' motives are suspicious: they're afraid of being dull, they want to "sell" it. Worth seeing regardless. We developeds talk of the World like our glowing screens one is all that is, but the "other half" lives as they've always done and will outlast us.
Once upon a time in Honeyland
You are gonna see plenty of things you wouldn't even expect from a movie. Not even a documentary. This movie has dozens of “oh my god” moments. This is how the universe works. This is life. In addition to its great documentary value, Honeyland impresses with its beautiful cinematic shots as well as the landscapes of beautiful North Macedonia.