Another Bee (Plus!) Movie: Queen of the Sun, A Film Review

Over the past few years since Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) made its troubling international debut, the buzz over bees has waxed and waned. A new film, Queen of the Sun, from director Taggart Siegel (who also directed The Real Dirt on Farmer John), deals with the subject in a direct but endearing way, featuring fascinating biodynamic and organic beekeepers around the globe. The sad story of our lost relationship with the bees unfurls, but all is not lost – yet—and so we are presented with ways to fix it, for us and for them.

The specific cause of the global bee crisis, first noticed in 2006, is still technically unknown. Currently, there is no single proven cause but rather several viable hypotheses, and it’s possible that it could be a combination of these factors. Genetically modified plants are said to be confusing the honeybees. Monocultures - acres and acres of a single crop that require migratory pollination - are also blamed. (Imagine, for a moment, the stress of a migratory bee.) In the film, sustainable food luminary Michael Pollan discusses the vast almond orchards of California’s Central Valley (which we know suck up a lot of water and that’s not native to the area, either) requires large scale pollination every February. In addition to Pollan, other bigwigs of the sustainable food world, like Carlo Petrini, Founder of Slow Food International and physicist and environmental activist Vandana Shiva weigh in as well, both pointing to pesticides as the cause of the honeybee die-off.

In the end, Queen of the Sun alludes to the notion that if we are to overcome this crisis, we must work together, like a colony of bees.

The film travels the globe and features beekeepers from France, England, Germany, New Zealand, Australia and the United States. Rooftop beekeepers in both Portland, Oregon and New York City are highlighted. Our personal hometown heroes of legalized beekeeping in New York City, Jacquie Berger of Just Food and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer were featured. Because of these hardworking folks, beekeeping is now legal in New York City, which was unfortunately overlooked in the film, perhaps because of the timing. Our New Yorkers still serve as a great contrast to the rural biodynamic beekeepers, proving that beekeeping can be done responsibly in any environment.

While Queen of the Sun deals with a serious subject matter, it features warm, fascinating people, which adds a welcomed lightness to the film. Personally, I admired the close relationship between the beekeepers and their bees. I think we tend to be naturally afraid of bees, making it easy to overlook their vital role. The opening scene of Queen of the Sun shows a woman dancing in a field, her chest covered with bees, which made me cringe at first glance, but I soon became transfixed by her calm nature and obvious love for these creatures.

The beekeepers featured in the film all have strong relationships with their bees, not unlike a farmer would have with chickens, goats or sheep. Yvon Achard, beekeeeper and bee Historian from Grenoble, France was my personal favorite. At one point in the film, while discussing his love for bees procedes to brush the honeycomb of bees with his mustache, soothing them and showing love.

In the end, Queen of the Sun alludes to the notion that if we are to overcome this crisis, we must work together, like a colony of bees. I highly recommend Queen of the Sun, premiering in cities across the country. The film officially opened this past spring and screenings are being hosted all over the US through October. Click hereto see if it’s in a theater near you. If you're interested in taking action to help save the bees, here’s how you can get involved.