China, the country of so many stories that we have not yet heard. Here is one. A beautiful one, premiered at the festival in Nyon, a multilayered work, as a good documentary should be, about countryside/city, generation conflicts in a family, man and animals, modern life and old age and so on so forth, I could go on and if it looks like a conceptual social documentary, it’s my fault in describing what is a well told family story with interesting characters, who are developed as the film develops. First of all the two mentioned in the title, the 71 old beekeeper, who struggles to make his profession survive, it’s not easy and to his big
disappointment the son, who has come back after a year in the city does not share the passion for beekeeping, the craft so to say, he is more into the business side of it: How can the beekeeping become more profitable.
It sounds very banal and generation conflicts are not that rare in documentaries but here you get close to the charismatic, pipe-smoking beekeeper and his worries, and the young Maofu adresses his problems with the family quite openly to Didie Weng behind the camera. It is obvious that she, the director, has established a relationship to the family that is built on trust. The beekeeper seems to be happy, when she is around and does not hold back, when he argues with his wife, which he does pretty often – and the other way around.
Gosh how hard a work they have in that family. It’s the bees, it’s the pigs, it’s the making bread, it’s the heating, when winter is there, it’s washing clothes in the lake or river, it’s taking care of the grandchildren when their mother needs to work in the city. He is 71 year’s old, the beekeeper, he looks older and even if his mother is 95, the theme of death is often brought up by him.
Why is it I like this film so much? Because it has a rhythm that fits the lives of the characters in the countryside, because there is a respect for the family in the film, because there is a sense for creating interesting, content-wise and aesthetically composed images, and because the long time presence of the director has given her moments of magic in and outside the farm house.
Switzerland/Canada, 2016, 80 mins.