CAPSULE: A documentary with style and substance looks at the crisis of spreading Colony Collapse Disorder. Taggart Siegel beautifully films as well as directs this study of the relationship of honeybees and humans and looks at the disastrous implications of this crisis, which could endanger the world population of bees and its 150,000,000-year-old symbiosis with pollinating plants. That would be a disaster for our population as well as theirs. Siegel's film is an education on bees and their relation with humans, shown with beautiful photographic color as well as creative animation. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10
Some documentaries have a specific set of facts and a point of view to present to the audience and the presentation is very straightforward with little more art than Fox News uses to present the news. Taggart Siegel's film QUEEN OF THE SUN is more than a matter-of-fact statement of the case that the world's population of bees is in danger from the mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder. It is a rich artistic statement, a beautiful study in amber, telling of the mystical relationship between humans and bees. It makes its case in any way it can, using arguments from art, from science, and from mysticism.
Rock paintings 15,000 years old show our ancestors honey-gathering. Humans have kept beehives since ancient history. Ancient civilizations of China, Egypt, Greece, and Rome immortalized their fascination with bees, carving their images in stone, going back to ancient history. Yet beekeeping today is suffering a mysterious disaster never seen in the history of this activity. Beekeepers will visit a hive that was hours before thriving and find that all the worker bees have deserted the hive and simply disappeared. As the problem has been spreading over the United States and Europe there is a serious fear that we may lose all our bees. That is no exaggeration. In the US alone five million bee colonies have just mysteriously gone missing. That would be a planet-wide disaster.
It is hard to overestimate the importance of the honeybee to the human way of life. The majority of fruits and vegetables we eat come from plant species that could not pollinate without the honeybee. The plant species would simply go extinct and we would be left with little more to eat than grains and potatoes. Our diets would become pallid and what food we could get would be expensive.
Siegel's film is a joy to watch as he shows us how bees are used (and frequently abused) by humans. Much of what he tells us has a mystical basis and it is illustrated with arresting images of bees at work. There are frequent animated illustrations, each with a different style of animation. We see that once each year a large proportion of the kept bees are loaded on big tractor-trailer trucks and carried to California to pollinate the almond groves. If 20% of the almond country land was devoted to just a few crops of the plants that sustain the bee, bees would not have to be shipped in. Today almond pollination is a major source of income for some industrialized beekeepers, but it badly stresses the bees.
Including testimony of beekeepers, ecologists, and farmers, as well as artists, the film makes a plea for conservation of the bees and for use of traditional bee keeping methods that have worked for thousands of years. It also is asks for more reasonable laws for beekeepers. While the causes of Colony Collapse Disorder are not known, Siegel argues for protection of bees from indiscriminate use of pesticides and from monoculture factory-farming--the growing of one single crop over a wide area. Other dangers discussed are genetic engineering of crops and artificial insemination of queens in the engineered hives.
Siegel has given us an exquisite textured film. I rate QUEEN OF THE SUN a +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10. It opens in New York on June 10, and in Los Angeles once week later.
I think the Siegel's case is weakened by its inclusion of people dressed in bee and flower costumes. The key image of the film is a never-explained image of a woman dancing covered with bees. The more empiricist viewer will be unimpressed by its use of the predictions of mystic and esotericist Rudolf Steiner. Steiner drew many bizarre and confirmable conclusions in the fields of spiritualism and metaphysics, most of which are unknowable or certainly not verifiable. His forecasts of bee population problems have no more credibility than the predictions of Nostradamus or Charles Fort. Steiner's suggestion of bee collapse is probably no more than a curious coincidence, and Siegel's use of Steiner makes questionable his case.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1645852/
What others are saying: http://tinyurl.com/queen-of-the-sun
Mark R. Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright 2011 Mark R. Leeper