More than Honey, Marcus Imhoof's documentary, which was Switzerland's entry into the Academy Awards this year, might be the most important movie you haven't seen this year.
More than Honey screens for the first time in San Francisco on Monday as part of the Berlin & Beyond Film Festival (fair disclosure: I work with Berlin & Beyond every year). A combination of the best parts of An Inconvenient Truth with the most fascinating bits of nature broadcasting, More Than Honey delivers both a warning and a fine detective tale wrapped into one.
Imhoof comes from a long line of bee-keepers, and his love and familiarity with the subject shows in the film's restrained narration, which touches not only on the disappearance of bees but also his personal history with the subject. The causes of colony collapse disorder, the sci-fi sounding phenomenon that's decimated nearly half of all beehives in the United States alone, still remains a mystery, and Imhoof treats it as such, masterfully contructing an exploration-based narrative that hangs well on the poetic musing of the voice-over (read by actor John Hurt in the English version).
Cinematically, the film features some of the most amazing macro photography since Discovery Channel's stoner mainstay "Planet Earth". A number of colonies were strategically tracked over the course of filming by a specialized bee minder, and then transported to a studio in Austria for filming during pivotal moments, which took endless hours of studio time to capture just a few seconds.
More Than Honey screens on the 20th, but elsewhere Berlin & Beyond, which began on Wednesday with German Oscar entry Two Lives, screens it's usual compliment of the latest German, Austrian and Swiss finds. Highlights include Frameline standout Free Fall, and the rare and luminous 3D flick Measuring the World. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Monday, Goethe-Institut San Francisco.
Ravishing, Radical, and Restored: The Films of Jack Smith - Underground icon Jack Smith, one of the godfathers of camp aesthetics, influenced Warhol, Waters, the Kuchar Brothers and a slew of other wonderful pop malcontents. For the uninitiated, a new world awaits, and the doc. Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis, which plays next Sunday and is free with an RSVP, is a good place to start. Sunday through the end of the month, YBCA.
Sundance Short Films - Just in time for the beginning of the Utah-based film festival, Roxie screens a selection of award-winning shorts from last year’s crop. Friday, Roxie.
The Girls in the Band - Big Band and Jazz fans will go gaga for this tidy and delightful doc about unsung female jazz musicians that cut against sexism and industry pressure to do what they loved: play. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Opera Plaza.
The Brilliance of Satyajit Ray - PFA presents a lengthy retrospective of the amazing work of legendary Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray through August, mostly on 35mm. Ray inspired countless filmmakers over the span of his 37-year career as a filmmaker, including contemporary masters like Akira Kurosawa. Friday, Panther Panchali screens and Saturday the first film of the Apu Trilogy, Aparajito, plays to kick things off. Friday, Sat, and Sunday, PFA Berkeley.
The Square - Yasin Kamal's incredibly eye-of-the-storm doc. about the Egyptian revolution puts faces to the news reports, depositing viewers right into the conflict and the triumph of an event that has only just begun. Plus, it just got nominated for an Oscar! Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. The Roxie.
The Heiress and Her Chateau - Are you a Downton Abbey fiend? Can’t resist a peek inside the halls of high society? Set your TiVo for Sunday night and check out this local doc. on Chateau Carolands, the Hillsborough, CA (near Millbrae) mega-mansion of Harriet Pullman Caroland, once one of the world’s richest women. Sunday on KQED.