In 1923, Rudolf Steiner, a scientist, philosopher & social innovator, predicted that in 80 to 100 years honeybees would collapse. His prediction has come true with Colony Collapse Disorder, where bees are disappearing in mass numbers from their hives with no clear single explanation. In an alarming inquiry into the insights behind Steiner’s prediction QUEEN OF THE SUN: What Are the Bees Telling Us? examines the dire global bee crisis through the eyes of biodynamic beekeepers, scientists, farmers, and philosophers. On a pilgrimage around the world, the film unveils 10,000 years of beekeeping, highlighting how our historic and sacred relationship with bees has been lost due to highly mechanized industrial practices. Featuring Michael Pollan, Vandana Shiva, Gunther Hauk and beekeepers from around the world, this engaging, alarming and ultimately uplifting film weaves together a dramatic story that uncovers the problems and solutions in renewing a culture in balance with nature.
Queen of The Sun: What Are the Bees Telling Us? is an in-depth investigation to discover the causes and solutions behind Colony Collapse Disorder; a phenomenon where honeybees vanish from their hives, never to return. Queen of The Sun follows the voices and visions of underrepresented beekeepers, philosophers, and scientists around the world, all struggling for the survival of the bees. While other bee films focus exclusively on commercial beekeepers, this film emphasizes the biodynamic and organic communities who have differing opinions from many commercial beekeepers and are overlooked in other films. read more
1. What drew you to this as a subject matter for a feature film?
I had no idea about the importance of honeybees until I read an article in 2007 that bees were not only so crucial to our environment, but that they were dying out on a mass scale, a phenomenon called Colony Collapse Disorder. The article had a quote attributed to Einstein which scared me enough to get me to pick up my camera and dedicate the next three years of my life to this film. The quote read, “If bees die out, man will only have four years of life left on earth.” Even though this quote has been since disputed, it had a lasting effect on me, and the truth is that bees are so vital to our planet that we can’t afford to lose them.
2. How did you find all your interview subjects around the world? In particular how did you choose your NZ subjects?
Many of my subjects were complete surprises and turned out to be very charismatic. There’s bee historian Yvon Achard who tickles his bees with his mustache and recites poetry to his bees, Sara Mapelli, who danced with 12,000 bees on her body, and Ian Davies, who likes to go up on his rooftop in Hackney, London where he keeps his beehives and spend time with “his girls”. Philip, his step son, who was once the youngest beekeeper in the U.K. names all of the queen bees after the Queens of England.
Coming off of making The Real Dirt on Farmer John, which was about an eccentric maverick farmer, I had a passion to find biodynamic, natural, organic and alternative beekeepers who were doing things differently and had unique insight into many of the possible causes for bee decline across the globe. I focused on biodynamic beekeepers because of a prediction made by Rudolf Steiner who lectured on bees and biodynamic farming. In 1923 he stated that bees would die out in 80 to 100 years due to industrialized beekeeping and over queen breeding.
For the New Zealand subjects, what inspired me was spending the last seventeen years living part-of the year in Pigeon Bay in Banks Peninsula. I wanted to capture the beauty of New Zealand and their long history of beekeeping, including Sir Edmund Hilary, who was a beekeeper. In New Zealand I focused on Warren Thompson and his wife and three daughters from the south island around Hanmer Hot Springs. Warren has a passion for the honeybee, which is so small but creates so much honey. Each member of the family is a beekeeper. The daughters roll beeswax candles to sell at the market to help pay for their ponies. I wanted to capture the close relationship this family has with nature and especially Warren’s insights into how to keep bees and nature strong without artificial influences that ultimately weaken the bees. The other great beekeeper was “Big Hands” Roy Arbon, who is an organic beekeeper on the west coast near Punakiki. READ FULL INTERVIEW