| Colony


Carter Gunn & Ross McDonnell

Ireland, 2009


Review by Rumsey Taylor

Posted on 06 May 2010

Source 35mm print

Categories The 2010 Independent Film Festival Boston

Colony infers “Colony Collapse Disorder,” a phenomenon that describes the sudden, unexplainable epidemic that finds an entire colony of honey bees dead. To fully comprehend how dire this event is - and, in the past ten years, it’s affected beekeepers in gathering quantities - one must understand how honey bees satisfy a specific ecosystem, one that’s invariably protected by a bevy of pesticides.

Honey bees, by virtue of their instinctive purpose, facilitate the pollination of different types of plants. Almond trees, for example: a farmer on the East Coast will purchase a number of hives to be deployed on his farmland, in an effort to maximize an almond harvest weeks later. The hives are deployed to different farmers around the country for different crops in the Spring, and afterward the beekeepers raise new, fuller hives. For decades, this economy was sustained without any radical interruption; children would inherit their parents’ businesses, and partnerships were made between farmers divided by several states.

Instances of CCD have been recorded since roughly the 70s, but it became statistically more expansive in 2006. In the ensuing years it would affect beekeepers in a number states. Hives were purchased for reduced fees, and the beekeepers found themselves straining to sustain their business. Their bees were dying, and they had no way to anticipate how subsequent years’ hives would do.

Colony is patient in fully illustrating this problem. It is comprised of eloquently composed interviews with the beekeepers and some of their business partners, and almost each of them describes this problem with defeatedness—it’s not only their profession at stake, but their passion. In witnessing these interviews, one becomes clearly sympathetic to their tragedy, and there’s the lingering thought that this single disruption to an ecosystem that’s become so refined could indirectly catalyze larger, more urgent environmental problems.

In its resolute lack of a formal solution, Colony assumes a gothic tone by its end, framing its subjects steadfastly in front of homes they have built themselves. Behind them, the sky is a piercing blue, and it’s in these moments that the disappearance of their bees is evocative of a larger, more mystical force that they cannot comprehend and cannot resist.

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