Monday, April 19, 2010
The important new documentary of the week is The Last Beekeeper which closely examines the phenomenon of "colony collapse disorder" among North American bees.
These days beekeepers make most of their money not on honey but pollinating crops and none is more profitable than the annual almond pollination in California.
Jeremy Simmons' first rate account focuses on individual beekeepers making the trek with their bees. They live in in South Carolina, Montana and Washington and must truck their hives across a continent to reach this destination. What that does to the bees in terms of stress is problematical.
However in 2007 just before this annual trek over 20 billion bees mysteriously died or went missing.
If this continues there'll be no bees left by 2035 and crops across North America will correspondingly suffer.
The girl from Montana has just taken over her late father's honey company and desperately wants to succeed.
The guy from Montana is accused of giving his bees more attention than the people around him and he says it's probably true.
And the family man from Washington knows he must get this order just to survive another disappointing year.
By making the story so personal Simmons keeps us on the edge of our chairs. Every up and down becomes personal.
And at the right time he introduces the academic talking heads who tell what they suspect: a virus is eating away at the bees and operates like AIDS --bees can't remember where their colony is located. That plus an infestation of mites from Japan spells disaster.
With bees pollinating a third of the food we eat it's time for answers and quickly.
The Last Beekeeper is far more attention grabbing than the latest movie thriller because everything is true and unstaged. I couldn't believe how quickly its 90-minute running time whistled by.
MY RATING: ****.
THE LAST BEEKEEPER PREMIERES ON ANIMAL PLANET THURSDAY APRIL 22 AT 8 P.M.