An environmental documentary video
Producer/Director: Carlos Francisco
Duration: 85 minutes
Country of production: South Africa
Date of completion: 2010
World premiere: Durban International Film Festival 2010
This project is a personal journey into understanding the uncommonly
seen acts and procedures
that happen behind the disasters of our time. These stories are often
brought to the public’s attention
through the media but once the hype dies down few are concerned as to
how and if the problem is
I saw this project my responsibility as an independent filmmaker and
hobbyist beekeeper to capture for
the first time a major immunological problem faced by South
Africa’s bee population. I was looking for
a good angle to produce a story about beekeepers in South Africa;
surprisingly it was the outbreak of
AFB, which triggered me into action. I immediately equipped myself and
headed off to the epicentre of
Fact is bees have become an integral part of society’s food and
job security, we are very dependant on
them for life as we know it and cannot afford to lose them; a threat to
them is a threat to us. A keeper of
bees myself I was able to establish relationships with a few ambitious
and colourful beekeepers in the
Western Cape region. I gained access into their life views, their
knowledge about the bee and the hard
physical work they endure. I realised the tragic consequences that lay
ahead for beekeepers with high
infections, it could very likely mean the end of their livelihoods.
I was able to film the developments over the period of a year and as
expected, people and bees went
through transformation. I filmed the events as a single camera operator
making sure I was present
where relevantly possible; important for me was to create an engaging
insight into a threat, not dealt
with, could even indirectly effect the viewers life. My approach was to
allow the viewer to be close to the
action whenever I could, bringing about a sense of involvement and
opportunity to see and experience
seldom seen elements of livestock disease management.
I realised that the story had two ways it could go, the bees would
either recover and life would go on
normally or the beekeepers would experience a huge collapse in bee
numbers. I would have to be
prepared to depict either of the realities as they happened. I felt it
important to identify a core lesson to
be learnt from this desperate situation; the film and its characters
began to convey that.
I feel the story is an example of
the importance of nature’s independent evolution without
I am currently still following and filming the situation. It is
uncertain as to how the remaining bees are
going endure the presence of the disease. If a large-scale collapse is
experienced, the integrity of the
South African beekeeper ideals will be tested, perhaps medication will
be the only solution.
At a time when globally bee populations are dramatically collapsing;
African bees show no signs of
being affected, in fact they are flourishing.
Early 2009, sees the unexpected and sudden outbreak of ‘American
Foulbrood’, the world’s worst bee
disease and historically prevalent in all countries, has finally
arrived in South Africa.
Filmed over a period of a year we follow a few charismatic South
African beekeepers as they come to
terms with and react to this potentially disastrous infection. The wild
South African bees have through
the years self managed all previous foreign diseases but little is
known on how the bees will react to
this new bacterial invasion. The viewer is taken on several personal
journeys into learning what actually
makes the African bee 'wild' and how has it, until now, managed to be
generally unaffected by the rest
of the worlds problems.
The film brings forward the
dilemmas people are faced with when working with modern day livestock
and the constant threat of diseases spreading globally.
A very personal film that allows viewers into a reality of which very
little is known publicly.
|Synopsis – Long
At a time when globally bee populations are dramatically decreasing
from the inability to cope with the
high prevalence of bee diseases, African bees show no signs of being
affected, they are flourishing.
Early 2009 witnesses the unexpected and sudden outbreak of
‘American Foulbrood’ this, the world’s
worst bee disease and historically prevalent in all countries, has
finally arrived in South Africa.
un-expecting and ill prepared the countries sole existing bee
researcher, Mike Allsopp, provocates that
lowering the disease’s presence through the destruction of all
infected colonies is potentially the only
dependable solution. Mike exclaims, “We have no way of knowing
how our bees will handle this new
disease, there could be a 30% collapse or it could be 90% collapse of
the bee population. We just don’t
With anticipation of major bee population collapses, the race to
determine how far and fast the disease
is spreading begins. One of the beekeepers rising to the challenge is
young, enthusiastic Brendan
Ashley Cooper, owner of over 500 hives, an inherited family business; a
third of his bee colonies are
experiencing the infection.
Brendan realises, “Beekeeping in South Africa will change
will never be able to keep bees the way we used to”. A nationwide
inspection reveals the disease’s
presence is already more wide spread than anticipated.
Midst the anxious atmosphere of
the beekeeping community the wisdom of a few begins to surface.
South African bees have never been susceptible to international bee
diseases. ‘The diseases our bees
have encountered in the past have always been overcome, naturally and
in reasonably short periods of
time.’ Beekeeper Robert Post reflects.
The fact that Africa, unlike most developed countries, still retains
a completely wild bee population is resultant in an extremely robust
and diverse genetic diversity. ‘Ask
any geneticist, diversity is strength.’ Remarks biochemist and
beekeeper Dr. Garth Cambray. He is
determined that given the chance, the bees will no doubt develop
natural immunity to the bacteria.
Brendan is another who believes in this approach, “I am prepared
to carry on culling my bees until
we get to a stage that the bees are tolerant to the disease…
Mike Allsopp expresses
concern on the fact that, “if colony losses are big enough,
beekeepers will have no choice but to start
This South African case scenario is typical of the rising challenges
the honeybees and beekeeping
industry is facing every year. In most developed countries the
dependence on medication and
commercial queen breeding programmes has led to loss of genetic
diversity, making them more
susceptible to disease.
Wild colonies have practically seized to exist in most parts of Europe
The film aims is to understand, through the experiences of very
traditional beekeepers, whether our
systems have the ability to patiently allow nature to take its course
or have the demands of people
caused that time to run out.
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