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Bee Grade Movie

02 May 201304:14PMlife

I want to write about this amazing movie I just saw. In order to do that though, I have to tell a bit of a story.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to a professional development type evening for Scitech volunteers. And their big news was that they were building a beehive. An actual, full-sized beehive, with perspex walls that you can look through, and a tube to outside for the bees to fly out and do their thing.

This was pretty cool, but like a lot of cool knowledge, it's hard to know exactly what to do with it once you have it - see also: the entire Faculty of Arts. In this case though, Arts actually did give me something to do, in the form of a Journalism in Practice assignment. It was in the middle of that typical early assignment conversation, where everyone asks each other what they're doing and have they started yet, and when my conversationally designated turn came up I pretty much spontaneously decided on "bees"

"Well", my pitch started, "have you heard that Scitech is getting a beehive?"

"Wow, really? That's cool... why though?"

And cue blank expression from me, followed by sudden realisation. That, right there, was the sort of thing you could write an 800-to-1200-word feature article on: Why on earth is Scitech getting a beehive?

(I'm not actually going to explain that here. I've written that article once already. Long story short, it's a collaboration with CIBER at UWA, and has a lot to do with a thing called Colony Collapse Disorder. Maybe I should just post the damn article...)

Anyway, thanks to some helpful contacts at Scitech, I ended up doing an email interview with Barbara, one of this organisation's lead scientists (who, incidentally, I've still yet to meet in person.) And after she'd answered my questions, she sent me an invitation: would I like to come to the Australian premiere of the honeybee documentary her father had made?

I've probably had stranger invitations, but I can't think of any right now. Naturally, I said yes.

So anyway, this film. I just got back from it, and it was excellent. Its basic premise is exploring the idea that bees are in trouble, through this juxtaposition between the harsh and efficient bee industry, and this beautiful macro footage from inside beehives.

(Seriously, this footage. It's worth seeing the movie for the cinematography alone. The honeycomb stretches out like this vast plain, and you can see every detail on the bees as they do their thing. It never feels scientific and detached like insect footage gets sometimes, where you're looking down on them. You are right in there, in the thick of it, hanging out with bees. This is not hyperbole. It is really, really beautiful.)

The human subjects are really well done too. There's a sort of rotating cast of them, and they all felt like characters, rather than talking heads propped up on cliches. They're all woven together to tell this remarkably compelling narrative about the decline of honey bees, which right at the end hints at a comeback. It's powerful stuff.

Also it contains a lot of very accessible and very interesting bee science. So there's that too.

Anyway, if you get the chance and are even vaguely into bees or excellent documentary filmmaking, or even neither of those, definitely check out More Than Honey. It's a pretty damn sweet film.


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