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» CinemaDope: Feeling the Sting

The mystery of disappearing bees
by Jack Brown, published on Thursday, April 14, 2011

We in the Valley are blessed with a vibrant restaurant scene. The wide variety of cuisines in our local eateries is a boon to downtown economies and gastronomes alike, creating a near-perfect circular relationship. If I asked, you could probably call to mind the last time you went out to eat. You might even be able to picture your plate as it arrived at the table: fragrant, stacked with locally grown fare, full of delicious promise. Now imagine that a full third of it simply disappeared.

That is the frightening future we are faced with in Vanishing Of The Bees, a documentary screening Friday and Saturday night in Shelburne Falls. The film, a study of the phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), follows commercial beekeepers David Hackenberg and Dave Mendes as they struggle to keep their hives healthy. No backyard honey farmers, Hackenberg and Mendes are responsible for pollinating crops across the country—commercial operations like theirs pollinate everything from apples to onions, accounting for one out of every three bites on the American dinner table.

So it's more than a bit scary to hear that honeybees have been suffering CCD since 2006, with massive populations simply disappearing from their hives with no warning. Still a scientific mystery, CCD has reached a crisis point; Vanishing Of The Bees—narrated by actress and activist Ellen Page (Juno)—explores the problem from both scientific and spiritual perspectives, and offers a wider look at sustainable living and organic farming and alternatives to today's beekeeping practices. As Hackenberg and Mendes cross the Pacific in hopes of finding a way to protect their hives, the film travels to Europe, Australia, and Asia, illuminating the global reach of the crisis.

To help bring the point home, Pothole Pictures has organized a series of events to coincide with the Saturday night screening. Film producer Peter Heller will be part of a panel discussion with Dan Conlon, president of the Mass. Beekeepers Association and owner of Warm Colors Apiary in Deerfield, and Dr. Rick Intres of Ashfield's Bear Meadow Apiary. Shelburne Falls poet John Berkowitz will be on hand to read a poem on the subject of colony collapse, and local authors Anne Woodhull and Shelley Rotner will have their children's book The Buzz on Bees—an elementary-age look at CCD—available at the screening. And to make the screening as accessible as possible, school-age children from K-12 will be admitted for free.

Also this week: Head south on 91 from Shelburne Falls and you'll find conspiracy theories abounding in Northampton. That's where Pleasant Street Theater is screening two very different kinds of cloak-and-dagger stories, one modern and one dating to the post-Civil War era.

First up is Hanna, a new thriller with an unlikely pedigree. Reuniting the director of the art hit Atonement with one of that film's stars, Hanna is a new kind of man-on-the-run movie; in this case, the part usually played by Matt Damon is given to teenage actress Saoirse Ronan. (One YouTube wag describes the film as "The Bourne Identity for the Bieber generation.") Here she plays Hanna, the home-schooled daughter of ex-CIA operative and single dad Erik (Eric Bana), a parent whose idea of a well-rounded education includes martial arts and extreme survival skills.

When father and daughter are separated during a raid orchestrated by another operative (Cate Blanchett), Hanna must rely on her training to escape her captors and find her father again.

And on Friday, the theater opens Robert Redford's new film, The Conspirator. A proto-John Grisham tale, it's a thriller that revolves around Mary Surratt, the only woman among the eight people charged with conspiring to kill Abraham Lincoln. Surratt owned a boarding house where John Wilkes Booth met with his co-conspirators, and her son John was the only conspirator to escape the massive manhunt that followed the assassination.

To Surratt's young lawyer Frederick Aiken (Atonement's James McAvoy), it's a sign that his client is an innocent pawn being used to lure her son out of hiding. As the nation calls for Surratt's head, Aiken rushes to prove his suspicions.

Source: www.valleyadvocate.com

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