Honey bees have always been a part of New York City life, with beehives dotting the roofs of hospitals, orphanages and tenements. But as the city became more cosmopolitan, beekeeping gradually fell out of fashion, and it was banned outright in 1999. But the harrowing reports of colony collapse disorder in 2007 created an international focus on honey bees. Concerned citizens all over the world rushed to aid the ailing bee, and New Yorkers fought to have the ban lifted in 2010.
“The Beekeeper,” a new documentary directed by Park Slope resident Susan Sfarra of Brooklyn-based Two Ladies in Black Productions, LLC, follows a beekeeping season in New York City shortly after the ban was overturned. The film takes place on rooftops and in bee yards across the boroughs to follow one season of honey production by Gotham's hardest-working insects. From the roof of the Waldorf Astoria to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, swarms are caught, beekeepers are stung, honey is harvested and the season draws to a close with a dramatic NYPD raid on dozens of beehives in a Queens backyard that reveals the sticky nature of New York’s urban beekeeping scene.
The film, which is available on iTunes, will screen at Anthology Film Archives on Wednesday, Aug. 20 at 9:15 p.m. as part of the New Filmmakers Summer Series.
Sfarra explains that while “[s]everal films already have explored well the large-scale issues around bee health as it relates to commercial beekeeping [and] the average person now knows how important bees are to our pollination needs […] there hasn’t been a film that looks at beekeeping in our communities.”
Anthology Film Archives is located on Manhattan’s Lower East Side at 32 Second Ave. Tickets are $6 and can be purchased at the box office the evening of the screening. For more information, see www.thebeekeepernyc.com.
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Two Ladies in Black Productions is a Brooklyn-based film production company. “The Beekeeper” is the company’s third film. A narrative short about Christmas trees, “The Growing Season,” premiered at Slamdance in 2010. “The Callers,” a feature-length documentary about Pennsylvania auctioneers moving mounds of merchandise and transitioning people into the next stage of life, is being distributed by First Run Features.
—Two Ladies in Black Productions, LLC