Colony: Something's Wrong Inside the Hive

The documentary crowd is catching up to colony collapse disorder, which some estimate has wiped out one-third of the American honeybees we need to pollinate our foodstuffs. Their services are worth some $15 billion to agriculture, so CCD is clearly a big deal, whether you shop at Whole Foods or the food bank. Unlike Queen of the Sun, seen at SIFF this spring, Colony takes a more nuts-and-bolts approach to the mysterious syndrome. Instead of being lectured on organic farming and the magical properties of honey, we watch as a nice evangelical family in California tries to cope with the sudden decline of their business. (This develops into a case of too much access, too little insight.) Other apiarists we meet are equally friendly and admirable. And for once, big business—in this case a pesticide-making division of Bayer—isn't treated as the villain of the piece. But unfortunately, since filmmakers Carter Gunn and Ross McDonnell don't take a position in their film, and since the origins of CCD are still murky, Colony is fatally inconclusive. Apart from a few pleasant nature scenes, it lacks the visual interest or eccentricity that, say, Errol Morris might bring to the topic. Beekeeping is a strange business, and though the bee and the hive are wonderfully metaphoric, Colony packs no sting or subversiveness. It just gives us talking heads covered by beekeeper's bonnets.

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