THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
"VANISHING OF THE BEES"
There's been a fair amount of media coverage in the past few years about how honeybees are vanishing. It's a story that is potentially easy to gloss over; if you aren't paying attention, you can think that's weird, and stop listening. The truth is that the disappearance of the honeybees potentially has catastrophic consequences for us all. For that reason, the documentary Vanishing of the Bees is important viewing.
Narrated by Oscar nominee Ellen Page, the film explores the effects and causes of Colony Collapse Disorder, a phenomenon in which thousands of bees suddenly disappear from their hives. What makes studying the problem so difficult is that the hives are not littered with bee corpses. If they were, it would be a lot more straightforward to investigate. No one knows where the bees go, or why they go. What we do know is that honeybees are responsible for 1/3 of our food supply, and without them around to pollinate, there would be less food to eat.
To drive this point home, we meet and spend time with two commercial beekeepers, David Hackenberg (who coincidentally lives just a few miles up the road from me) and Dave Mendes, both of whom have been the victims of Colony Collapse Disorder. The men spent three years studying the problem and urging the government to do something about it. When a similar problem popped up in France, they traveled overseas to see what was being done about it there. Vanishing of the Bees also has interviews with scientists working on the issue. Although there is still no ironclad explanation, evidence seems to suggest that certain chemical pesticides may be responsible. Directors George Langworthy and Maryam Henein don't shy away from naming corporate names, nor are they soft on the EPA, which makes its decisions based on research done by - you guessed it - the very companies seeking to put these pesticides on the market.
I found Vanishing of the Bees both frightening and inspiring. Frightening in the sense that it does a very good job of showing how our food supply would be negatively impacted by continued instances of Colony Collapse Disorder, as well as pointing out a disturbing apathy from the EPA and the companies that manufacture the questionable pesticides; inspiring in the way it shows people like Hackenberg, Mendes, and various scientists dedicating themselves to finding a solution.
The movie perhaps relies a bit too much on talking head interviews, with the interviewees occasionally launching into scientific explanations not geared toward the layman. And I know this is nitpicking, but it's kind of sloppy that on-screen titles repeatedly misspell the name of Pennsylvania town "Lewisburg" as "Lewisberg," even when it's clearly printed on the side of Hackenberg's truck in the same shot.
The fact remains, though, that Vanishing of the Bees is an important and educational film, one with a vital message. It ends with some suggestions about what the viewer can do to help solve the problem. Starting June 7, Bees will be available on DVD and on demand. I encourage you to get informed on the issue. This doc is a good place to start.
( out of four)
Vanishing of the Bees comes with some supplementary material, beginning with "Honeybee Rescue," a segment that teaches you how to remove a bee colony from your land while keeping the bees safe. "Beekeeping in France" looks at the history of the practice in that country, and also explains the origin of the modern beehive. Finally, there's "Colony Collapse Disorder (An Unfinished Story)," a short film on the subject made by animator Antanas Skukas.
Vanishing of the Bees is unrated but contains no objectionable material. The running time is 1 hour and 28 minutes.