A creative exploration of the global honeybee crisis replete with remarkable nature cinematography.

A creative exploration of the global honeybee crisis replete with remarkable nature cinematography, some eccentric characters and yet another powerful argument for organic, sustainable agriculture in balance with nature, Taggart Siegel’s attractive call-to-action docu “Queen of the Sun” reps a natural follow-up to his prize-winning “The Real Dirt on Farmer John,” albeit never matching the latter’s depth, poignancy and humor. Covering much of the same territory as the recent Irish docu “Colony,” “Queen” could generate some honey in niche theatrical before landing on the smallscreen.

In recent years, “colony collapse disorder,” a phenomenon in which worker bees abruptly disappear, has affected more than 5 million hives (each with 50,000-60,000 bees) worldwide. Given that bees pollinate 40% of the food humans eat, their vanishing signals huge repercussions for the planet.

Traveling throughout the U.S. and to England, Germany, Switzerland, Australia and New Zealand, Siegel assembles a large cast of biodynamic beekeepers, scientists and authors who explore some of the reasons for colony collapse and suggest ways it might be remedied; cute animated segments in different styles help to illustrate their points. And throughout the pic, close-up footage of busy bees pollinating brightly colored flowers, swarming in trees and hanging from honeycombs (and from the limbs and faces of beekeepers) keeps audience attention on the amazing insect many cultures once considered sacred.

In contrast to his heroic, low-angle-shot depiction of the pro-organic voices, Siegel’s visuals of the migratory beekeepers and fields of monoculture, as single-crop farming is known ugly and threatening in the style of “Food, Inc.” Likewise, his dully colored shots of airplanes spewing pesticides and black-and-white archive footage of mechanized agriculture provide an unattractive foil to his sensuous shots of bees feeding on vibrant blossoms.

In spite of its brief running time, pic occasionally feels repetitive as the talking heads mostly concur and restate the same facts and opinions without going into much depth about the details of biodynamic beekeeping. Editing works fine but occasionally jumps between topics with bee-like randomness.

Like other current educational activist docus, pic ends with concrete suggestions of things the average person could do to help improve the situation. Jami Sieber’s lyrical score adds to the overall enjoyment.

Queen of the Sun

Production

A Collective Eye production. (International sales: Collective Eye, Portland, Ore.) Produced by Jon Betz, Taggart Siegel. Directed by Taggart Siegel.

Crew

Camera (color/B&W, DV), Siegel, editors, Jon Betz, Siegel; music, Jami Sieber; animation, Noah Dorsey, Michelle Hwang, Chris Rodgers, Alyssa Timon, Emma Trip; sound, Ryan Mauk; associate producers, Donald Sigel, Eric Solberg, Mike Quinn, George Mitchell. Reviewed at Seattle Film Festival (competing), June 9, 2010. Running time: 82 MIN.

With

Gunther Hauk, Kirk Webster, Michael Pollan, Carlo Petrini, Gunther Friedmann, Horst Kornberger, Jennifer Kornberger, May Bernbaum, Yvon Achard, Ian Davies, Vandana Shiva, Raj Patel.
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