Hatidže navigates her existence, proving that the human element does not need a city to capture the soul. It is she who climbs the mountain.
On Sundays, my relatives and I used to go to wild places of Greece. Wild, untouched by the human hand. Anyone can spot rugged land when the corps are rich and tall.
One day, we were walking along the edges of a small safe mountain to reach a hidden waterfall. When we arrived at the shore ends of the waterfall, of course, many families were there. We were all gathered in accessible nature to lay off the previous week’s stress.
Hatidže Muratova’s story is different. Raw, real, and lonely. Honeyland is the beauty of North Macedonia, the glorious mountains with the raw scenery of unfiltered life, her and her mom. There is so much space in this life. And what happens in a story that has a lot of it? Life is allowed to progress, to run untethered.
This documentary is unlike any other. And I love memorable things.
How do I start to write about it? Anything I write, I can not honor North Macedonia enough. I could only have lived it for the 3 years of filming to capture it. Now, I am humbled to even begin to describe it.
Hatidže is one of the last beekeepers in her mountain village of Bekirlija. She lives in a small room made of rocks stacked on top of the other. If I recall back to my grandma’s old house, I understand this. Balkan villages are after all.. uniquely made of sustainability and survival.
Her mother, her beloved mother, lives with her. Despite being sick and tired from life, she wakes up to enjoy the sun for a set of minutes in a row. The mere open square they had would put direct sunlight in the room every single day. A blessing.
Hatidze feeds her mama bananas and honey. As I saw this woman eat more than she wanted, I remembered the traditional stories. Especially those shared by Serbian and Albanian friends. And of course Greek grandmothers. You eat, you survive. And you eat more than you have room for because tomorrow you might not even have crumbs.
The essence of this provoked a lot of self-reflection. It made me think of my luxury. I have dealt with stomach issues for a long time. I have suffered to eat a single bite as my stomach walls were sewed tight. But, I had the privilege of stopping. These women can not afford to stop. Eat today for the rest of the week.
Throughout the days that passed, I recognized immense humble strength in her. I saw in her another side of women. Those that have held the fort standing for so long, become it.
Continuing on, we are presented with many themes, as the directors would choose to do so amazingly. The seasons change and this woman crafts honey. Honey behind the mountain and bees inside trees. She handles the bees without gloves. Singing to them in her language as if the bees knew her. The wild bees dance along her hands without ever stinging her. I paid close attention to her hands and she was still unharmed. The kilos of honey were never a big quantity. Hatidže never pushed for more; honey or life.
Characteristically, what she said a lot was, take half, leave half.
Greediness is human nature. So are helplessness, fear, and all of the greed siblings. I starve for finance and job prospects in my new country and I get paralyzed when doors close. With the inflation and the expenses of food, I feel raw fear. And this woman feels raw stability with the earth's gifts. She is not greedy. It humbled me to my bones and further down to the earth that first shaped me as God touched soil.
More and more, she kept me serene to observe her.
She sold a jar of real remedy honey for 10 euros and then she went on to buy a gift for her mama and a gift for herself. It made me think, what are you gonna do? Give up? You can never give up, chrysanthemum. Life goes on and you do not have the option of giving up. Life demands your presence.
As the story progressed, a family came and a disagreement arose. The bees, in an environment of poor prospects and lack of food with many mouths, will become the coin of survival. Look at our developed world, we still buy honey from the store instead of a natural source because the source is expensive. Natural honey is gold.
And thus conflicts arose. Who will feed their family, and who will not? I do not need to spoil how the events followed because this is not a movie. Life followed in an expected course.
Hatidže is, to me, the definition of the magic of being a human being. Her life did not begin with me watching her in a documentary. Or even with the documentary. It does not carry a hidden purpose or try to pass even a single message.
In reality, Hatidže herself is worth being seen for exactly who she is and the life she follows. To see how these capable, strong women would gather the honey without anyone’s help or protective gear. Her bare hands would hold the honeycomb as her voice carried a song for the bees. And still, just like a woman connected with the purpose of giving, she is endless. Her kindness flows through the movie as she takes care of others. Tirelessly, emotionally and gently. She plans on keeping herself and her mom alive. I do not kid myself by thinking any of it is easy. It’s the truth in her person that moves me. Death comes, tears follow, and seasons change.
Hatidže has lived life without a safe shelter. From all the elements of life, she had protection for none. There is something real in this. The only thing she had to shield herself with was crying and sunlight. Crying is a luxury she was still given. And, the sun was the provider of health. We ask for so many luxuries to overprotect ourselves and yet, everything we need already exists.
For 3 years, they filmed 400 hours of unfiltered footage. Who would you become in those 3 years?