Published Jun 21, 2013A veteran of the Canadian film industry, most notably as David Cronenberg's go-to second unit director on almost everything from The Brood to M. Butterfly, John Board has cancer. He also has an extraordinarily positive attitude and an inquisitive nature. These aspects of his personality make him a prime candidate for homeopathic medicine.
Me, the Bees and Cancer documents Board's attempts to treat his disease with natural alternatives to clinically invasive methods. Plainly shot (aside from an embarrassing geriatric rap video extolling the virtues of homeopathy that opens the movie) by Board's co-directors, the film touches upon the discovery and early stages of his illness in 2010 while he was working on an effort called Hello October (it's since been renamed The Family Way). However, this film chiefly focuses on his experiment with apitherapy. Not familiar? Few are.
Apitherapy is the practice of stinging physical woes into submission. Over a two-month period, Board rubs the business end of 20 to 30 bees on his armpit tumour (Hodgkin's lymphoma) every other day. We get to watch in intimate detail as he plucks each stinger out after all the venom has been absorbed. It's not exactly comfortably viewing and an extended sequence of other seniors being treated by the regional bee sting therapy guru — for tongue cancer and less severe ailments — will test the threshold of most people's ability to stare death from within right in the face.
Aside from these and a few other scenes that dwell on the mechanics of the treatment, Board's peppy spirit, colourful rants against the medical establishment and frequent moments of unflinching introspection keep the heavy subject matter from becoming what the former hippie would term "a bummer."
Because he's a friend (and let's face it, word of his involvement is bound to increase interest), David Cronenberg shows up to discuss the nature of addiction with his indomitable former co-worker. Due in large part to the famous director's clarity of thought, it's one of the most balanced and engaging moments in the documentary. Often, Board's perspective, while admirably probing, falls prey to sensationalised claims lacking substantive research, and no institutionalized medical professionals are invited to weigh in.
It's certainly not essential viewing for everyone, but Board's bravery should prove a valuable case study for those looking to re-evaluate how we treat our flesh vessels. (College Street Pictures)