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.
"Hey, where did our bees go?"
Runs at Northwest Film Forum, Fri., Nov. 19–Wed., Nov. 24. Not rated. 87 minutes.