More Than Honey (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
December 16, 2013 by Dennis Amith
Markus Imhoof’s “More Than Honey” is an informative, entertaining and also important documentary on why bees are important to human society and the dwindling of bee colonies worldwide. But most importantly, a documentary that provides a wake-up call that humans will need to solve the mystery of what is killing the bees before it’s too late.
TITLE: More Than Honey
FILM RELEASE: 2012
DURATION: 91 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:78:1 Aspect Ratio, German DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1,, Optional English Subtitles
COMPANY: Kino Lorber
RATED: Not Rated
Release Date: December 24, 2013
Directed by Markus Imhoof
Written by Markus Imhoof, Kerstin Hoppenhaus
Producer: Helmut Grasser, Markus Imhoof, Thomas Kufus, Pierre-Alain Meier
Music by Peter Scherer
Cinematography by Attila Boa, Jorg Jeshel
Edited by Anne Fabini
Zhao Su Zhang
In MORE THAN HONEY, filmmaker Markus Imhoof (The Boat Is Full) tackles the vexing issue of why bees, worldwide, are facing extinction. With the tenacity of a man out to solve a great mystery, he investigates this global phenomenon, from California to Switzerland, China and Australia. Exquisite macro-photography of the bees (reminiscent of Microcosmos) in flight and in their hives reveals a fascinating, complex world in crisis. The film shows a detailed look at the breeding of queen bees, the laboratory process of a bee brainscan, and a hive facing the infection of mites.
Writes Eric Kohn in Indiewire: “The camera’s magnifying power renders the infection in sci-fi terms, as if we’ve stumbled on to a discarded scene from David Cronenberg’s The Fly.” MORE THAN HONEY is a strange and strangely moving film that raises questions of species survival in cosmic as well as apiary terms.
Albert Einstein once said “if bees were to disappear from the globe, mankind would only have four years to live.”
The fact is that without honeybees, the world would lose a lot of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds as bees are important in the pollination process.
Around the country, the United States is experiencing an alarming rate of bee colonies dwindling and has suffered a 30% loss of honey bees. The same can be said in other countries such as Germany, Switzerland which has a 70 percent loss of bees and even worse in China where bees have become nearly extinct and pollination is now done by migrant workers.
But to better understand the importance of honey bees and the problem that beekeepers are starting to see that will definitely affect the world if things continually get worse, filmmaker Markus Imhoof created a documentary titled “More Than Honey”.
A documentary that will be available on Blu-ray in Dec. 2013 courtesy of Kino Lorber.
Imhoof’s grandfather was a beekeeper who owned a canning factory with big gardens of fruits and berries and had a home for the bees. His daughter and son-in-law are bee scientists, so honey bees and their benefits to human society and the study of why the colonies are dwindling are a part of his life.
“More Than Honey” is a documentary that took five years to shoot. Because the best time to shoot is in February and the best time when almonds are in flower, shooting in the spring time and capturing the best moments when bees are most active.
Using sophisticated endoscopic micro lens used in medical operations and shooting at 70 frames per second, working with a bee whisperer and most importantly being patient, Imhoof was able to capture the process of bee keepers around the world.
In Austria, we see an elderly man raising bees the way the previous generations of his family have done. In Germany, we see labs trying to find out more about bees, trying to trace their movements using a tracker and seeing how their brain works. We also see the business and process of creating more queen bees which are sent to farmers all around the globe.
In the United States, with the almond production, we learn how bees are big business but the challenges that are faced because the use of pesticides are important, but knowing that the bees bring pollen combined with pesticides back to their young brood and it’s killing them. But also learning the importance of transferring bees to different parts of the country and how its a time sensitive situation.
In China, Chinese killed the huge number of sparrows, which in turn led to more insects (especially the hornet) which led to the death of their honeybees. Bees are literally near extinct in China and now the country depends on migrant workers for pollination.
But we also see the shock to many beekeepers when they realize that the colonies that are used for pollination or for honey aren’t surviving.
All around the world, there is a colony collapse of bees. Something is causing them to not survive and they know that without bees, the loss of bees is detrimental to society. But we also know that for certain farmers, they live for the now and as much as they know that pesticides and fungus are killing the young bees, they are dependent on using the pesticides for their plants to feed the country.
The documentary also goes into the variation of bees, especially the African Honey Bee (also known as “The Killer Bee”) in the U.S. and how one man in Arizona chooses to make honey using these bees without pesticides.
And to answer the question if Albert Einstein is right that if bees were to disappear from the globe, would mankind cease to exist?
“More Than Honey” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1). What captures your attention is the use of micro endoscopic lenses to capture the bees in their natural habitat but also seeing the special feature on how they were able to capture footage using Red digital cameras. The detail is amazing as bees are so close up, you can see the hairs on their arms and legs, you can see the bee larvae, you can see the bees working on the pollen and so much more with amazing detail.
A lot of the shots are outdoors, so colors are vibrant. There are certain scenes that look CG, for example, a bee with a tracker flying through the country. I know that there was a YouTube video with an eagle with a GoPro hooked up to it, to capture it’s flight movement. But obviously, a camera on a bee in flight is not possible with today’s modern technology. But there are certain closeups of bees in flight and looking through the special feature, there were moments where they had a green screen with bees flying and because they were shot in 70 frames, I could see how those scenes were utilized in the film.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
As for the lossless audio, “More Than Honey” is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. The audio features the original German-language version (with optional English subtitles) and an English version with narration by actor John Hurt.
I usually don’t expect documentaries to utilize the surround channels all that much but with “More Than Honey”, they captured the sounds of the bees humming and nicely used these sounds and their flight for directional sounds through the surround and rear surround channels. I was surprised and overall quite pleased with the lossless soundtrack.
“More Than Honey” comes with the following special features:
- Markus Imhoof Interview – (20:02) Featuring an interview with filmmaker Markus Imhoof and how and why he created the film.
- Deleted Scenes – Featuring seven deleted scenes
- Fight Into the Beehive – (1:59) A behind-the-scenes look at how the closeups of the bee colony were filmed.
- In the Mountain Cave – (3:06) A behind-the-scenes look at how the African Honey Bees were filmed.
- Trailers – Two theatrical trailers (German and English) for “More Than Honey”)
“More Than Honey” comes with a slipcase.
“More Than Honey” is a very fascinating documentary that looks into the business of beekeeping, the importance of honeybees and the alarming rate of dying bee colonies around the world.
Having a sister-in-law who’s family are involved as beekeepers and making their own honey and candles, but also for the fact that I have been fascinated by bees because it is probably the insect that I have feared growing up after seeing my younger brother stung multiple times when he got too close to a hive.
But I also know the importance of bees for pollination of many vegetable, fruits and nuts. And seeing how the world is being impacted by human society, the problem is that society lives for the now and leaves the problems created in the present for the people in the future.
And Filmmaker Markus Imhoof’s “More Than Honey” is an indicator that the dwindling bee colonies are dying so quickly that in some countries, they are becoming more extinct.
A scene showing an almond farmer and hearing the bees and thinking “money”. The farmer talks about his almond crop and the importance of bees, but also the importance of using pesticides to kill the fungus, which bees are bringing back to their colony to feed the larvae and bees are dying.
It’s become so bad to the point that bee keepers must use medicine and antibiotic on all bees in order for them to survive.
But as pesticides can be seen as one reason for killing a bee, last year, researchers found that a potential culprit in the increase of honeybee deaths is that they have built a resistance to the antibiotic, tetracyline.
Of course, this is all speculative and more research must be done, but there is a problem and the question is how do we fix it.
“More Than Honey” shows us the potential problems but at this current time, there is no idea how to fix it. And that is why I liked how Imhoof included the African Honey Bees segment, because these bees have been long feared because of the aggressiveness and the fact that they will kill off any European honeybee (especially the queen). But one who chose to work with the African Honey Bee has a business that is doing quite well with them, no use of pesticides.
But of course, the media response to African Honey Bees (a.k.a. “The Killer Bee”) has been negative in U.S. media as people have died from being stung by them. So, instead of the positive of these type of bees, we only hear about the negative.
Another interesting segment was the bees in China. How bees are nearly extinct and they depend on human pollination. But how few migrant workers are nowhere near hundreds of bees that can do a much better job. And with the largest population on Earth, it will be interesting to see how China deals with the problem.
The fact is that one-third of pollination is delivered by honeybees, the rest by other insects. In Europe, many species of bees are becoming extinct.
But with other problems that society is dealing with, hopefully by the time people realize that the dwindling of bee colonies will deprive them of vegetables, fruits and nuts and all we have left are wind-pollinated crops such as wheat, barley and corn.
Markus Imhoof’s “More Than Honey” is an important wake-up call because it is a problem that is affecting human society. The research and how various segments are presented is insightful and for the most part, the presentation of the research and its intimate cinematography of capturing the bees in their habitat is fascinating and really, quite awesome!
On Blu-ray, “More Than Honey” looks fantastic because you can see the closeup detail of the bees, but the details and colors are amazingly captured. Also, something I was not expecting was the use of surround for the lossless track (German and English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1). I was quite amazed by how immersive the soundtrack was during certain moments of the film and the directional use of the surround and rear surround channels for the bees humming.
Also, there are quite a few special features including an interview with director Markus Imhoof, deleted scenes, making of scenes and the film is presented in German (with optional English subtitles) and English with narration by actor John Hurt.
Overall, Markus Imhoof’s “More Than Honey” is an informative, entertaining and also important documentary on why bees are important to human society and the dwindling of bee colonies worldwide. But most importantly, a documentary that provides a wake-up call that humans will need to solve the mystery of what is killing the bees before it’s too late.
Albert Einstein once said, “if bees were to disappear from the globe, mankind would only have four years to live.”
Let’s hope that never happens.
“More Than Honey” is highly recommended!
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