It seems safe to say that filmmaker Kevin Hansen has quite a bee in his bonnet.
His 2010 documentary short “Nicotine Bees,” showing at the SUB’s Southwest Film Center from Thursday-Sunday, exposes the root of the pandemic bee population decline that created a buzz in the news a few years ago.
The film investigates the agricultural phenomenon known as “colony collapse disorder,” in which hive colonies around the world randomly see bees die by the thousands. In a series of interviews, beekeepers from around the world offered their first-hand accounts of this mystery.
So why a movie about bees that doesn’t feature Jerry Seinfeld? Well, it turns out that bees are the bee’s knees when it comes to pollinating some of our favorite crops. According to the movie, bee-pollinated fare, including apples, citruses and pumpkins account for $15 billion of global industry.
Despite what the title suggests, this isn’t a Truth ad indicating that smokers are killing the honey-making insects. The titular chemical refers to the newly widespread use of nicotinoid systemic insecticides, which have proven harmful to bee immune and nervous systems.
Lately, there seems to be an increase in the examination into the origins of our food. With a similar message found in books such as The Omnivore’s Dilemma and other films like 2008’s “Food Inc,” “Nicotine Bees” also insists we take a hard look at the realities and consequences of the rampant chemical-based farming techniques behind genetically modified crops and pesticide control that have expanded in recent years. As a film, “Nicotine Bees” offers an elementary and direct assembly. Hansen appeals to the simplicities of bee-loving nature by integrating animated sequences and copious bee action shots in addition to his interviews. The added backdrop of a continuous acoustic guitar soundtrack rounds out the bright buzzing tone of the piece.
While the film provides a bit of background information into the birds and the bees of bees, beyond those who already go absolutely ape for apiaries, the attempt at pathos of bees’ plight may not be very compelling. However, the pollution of pollination drastically affects humans as well. Not only are the careers of the world’s beekeepers and farmers at stake, so is the well-being and longevity of our food production.
Condemning chemical companies as the source of the problem, the film calls on us to stop minding our own beeswax and change our “bee-havior.” In order to protect the bees and the safety of our food, the film says we should raise awareness against harmful pesticides through letters to the EPA and Congress, as well as buy and grow organic produce.
Although more honey-coated than stinging, “Nicotine Bees” is a laconic, informative and interesting inspection of our modern agricultural climate, requiring viewers to consider the widespread effect and unified danger that chemical farming has on life of all sizes.