The bees have been abandoning their hives; it's a phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder and it has been all over the news in recent years. Taggart Siegel's new documentary tries to unravel the mystery of the bees' disappearance while simultaneously underlining the disaster that will befall humanity if the bees vanished altogether, offering possible solutions and looking at the symbiosis of man and bee through history. The passion imparted by the filmmaker and the bee advocates featured in the film is infectious. Queen of the Sun is as entertaining as it is educational, and should attract a strong following among fans of the insects and nature docs, as well as anyone interested in ecological issues.
Siegel begins with a striking image, a young woman attired from the waist up in nothing but bees. Bees cover her torso and decorate her face, so many hanging from her chin that they form a kind of bee beard. She is not frightened. Instead she is dancing, the first signal that this doc, at its base, is about man's relationship with bees. We are the tiny creatures' dependents. Without their hard work pollinating crops, many of the fruits or vegetables the world takes for granted would cease to exist. And the bees have been disappearing in large numbers. According to Gunther Hauk, one of the biodynamic bee keepers that Siegel features, some five million colonies each holding between 20-60 thousand bees have fallen prey to colony collapse in North America alone.
A number of experts that include botanists, biologists, breeders and beekeepers (both professional and amateur) trace the decline of the bees to a number of sources, including pests and disease, artificial insemination schemes (who knew?!) and the stress commercial farming puts on the creatures. These same experts offer solutions, most of which aim to provide bees what they need to thrive and make the world more bee-friendly.
While Queen of the Sun is filled with talking heads, this is no talking head documentary. Siegel uses various visual strategies to make his film more dynamic. In some places, he uses animation to underline a point provided by his experts. In others, he simply films the bees in their hives, pollinating flowers, swarming in trees, or hovering in the sun. Siegel served as his own cinematographer and he should pay himself a bonus for the work he did; his images are beyond gorgeous.
The doc does exactly what it is supposed to do; it not only provides an education on colony collapse and its consequences, but fires up the viewer to do something about it. One suspects that as this film makes its journey through theaters and eventually to DVD, in its wake will come more gardens with bee-friendly flowers and more amateur beekeepers. What Siegel has made is at once a cautionary tale and the feel-good advocacy movie of the year.
Contact: Carolyn Keane Carolyn@collectiveeye.org 503-232-5345
Director: Taggart Siegel
Producer: Jon Betz, Taggart Siegel
Running time: 83 min.
Release date: March 25 SF