Carter Gunn & Ross McDonnell

BY Robert BellPublished Nov 17, 2016

I recently had the pleasure of exchanging a dialogue with a staunch conservative who asserted that "colony collapse disorder" – a recent term coined to describe the widespread disappearance of honeybees throughout America – was proof that communism couldn't work. Now, I'm all for strained allegory and unlikely thematic connections, but of the many reasons why communism proves problematic, I'm not convinced that dead bees and pollination paucity is one of them. Carter Gunn and Ross McDonnell's humdrum documentary on the subject of bees and beekeepers opens with a lofty proclamation about social order in the beehive, citing a single-minded work ethos for a lack of conflict and disarray. It sets the bar high, suggesting that there is more going on in this talking heads affair than mere conjecture about endangered bees. But the alluded political subtext is left by the wayside while various beekeepers take us through the motions of their day-to-day, moving bees from crop to crop where they perform their pollination rituals and move on. The subject of missing bees is discussed with a great deal of hearsay, such as the possibility of disease, compounded pesticide consumption and generalized weakened immunity due to excessive inbreeding. Nothing conclusive is offered, leaving the documentary to focus on the economic implications of the phenomenon, expanding upon the increased reliability for imported food and the repercussions of making beekeeping an obsolete industry. No real experts are involved or interviewed, making things more about the impact on the individual, such as the very Christian Seppi family, whose livelihood is threatened by economic struggles more so than the mysterious bee disease, which brings us back to the intended political subtext. You see, bees work independently with equal purpose, aware only of their immediate surroundings and individual roles. Their collaboration and harmony make for efficiency unhindered by petty disputes about money and corporate needs, which is seemingly the injected message here. There's also a somewhat more amusing connection between the Seppi family and the hive mentality, positing the mother as some sort of ersatz queen bee matriarch, but it, much like the communist implications, never really works. Still, it's neat to hear a little bit about colony collapse disorder, even if nothing new or particularly insightful is offered. The DVD includes only filmmaker bios as a supplement.

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