by Robbie Knight, published on February 15, 2011|
George Langworthy and Myriam Henein never expected the swarm of support that gathered around the making of their award-winning film, "The Vanishing Of The Bees". When they read the first news reports about the world honeybee crisis they knew they needed to make a film about it and they expected plenty of challenges on the path. But this director and investigative journalist were very surprised by the mass of talent that came together to help them, and by the collective passion for the subject. According to director George, "We just started calling it 'The Hive."
The swarm began with a Lithuanian filmmaker George and Myriam discovered on YouTube who had made his own film on Colony Collapse Disorder; he wanted to contribute animation to "The Vanishing Of The Bees". The Oscar-winning director who edited the film hadn't done any editing in 10 years, but he wanted to help on the project. And then there's the story of Ellen Page joining the project as the film's narrator; the prominent young actress has starred in movies like Hard Candy and Juno.
The use of voice-over was given careful deliberation at first. "Narration is looked on as an easy way out," said Myriam. Many nature documentaries use narration as a device; when you're throwing a lot of information at an audience it's a way to keep them on board and to tie the film together. But the happy accident of getting Ellen Page to narrate was pure serendipity.
George and Myriam had contacted environmental film maker and activist Leonardo DiCaprio about making the "The Vanishing Of The Bees". DiCaprio happened to be working with Page on a movie when an assistant director swatted a honey bee on the set. Page threw a fit in protest. DiCaprio connected her immediately with the project. After being "Moved to tears," by the first screening of an early version of the film, Page was eager to be a part of it.
The real stars of "The Vanishing Of The Bees", American beekeepers David Hackenberg and Dave Mendes, were the hardest to win over. Mendes accused George and Myriam of "Having lofty goals" and even worse, of being "Activists," but after an early screening both Hackenberg and Mendes changed their minds. They had gained respect for the filmmakers and for the project, then agreeing to put in more time on camera. That enabled George and Myriam to move them into the foreground of the film. Both Hackenberg and Mendes are the kind of people you want to have a beer with, and even beyond their individual appeal is the story of a friendship. These beekeepers, who could have indulged in competition, instead became very close friends through the shared struggle to survive the bee crisis. They are still struggling. Mendes even states in the film that to keep bees alive and to keep them pollinating important crops, "We're fighting a war,"
Local "Bee Guru" Gregg McMahan with Rocky Mountain Bee Removal, Rescue and Education concurs. "I don't judge commercial beekeepers," he says, "They're caught in a cycle," Compensating for monocuture (the growing of vast areas of a single plant species, like almond trees) is a cycle of struggle for farmers and beekeepers. But the Bee Guru is quick to add his message of hope: "It will be the small-time, urban beekeeper who saves the bees."
The Vanishing Of The Bees" also puts forth a message of hope near the end of the film. Beekeepers agree that bees can be saved and that much of that effort will be done on a small, local scale. There are many easy ways to help: taking care to buy local, pure honey, planting local wildflowers or even joining the backyard beekeeping trend. But the real hope for George and Miryam lies in getting people to see their film. Mass awareness of the situation is crucial.
To order a copy of the documentary or host a screening, visit the Vanishing of the Bees website.
If you'd like to know more about what's going on in Colorado or even take action yourself, visit the Rocky Mountain Bee Removal, Rescue and Education website.