Film enthusiasts can look forward to two movie events this weekend. A compelling documentary called “Vanishing of the Bees” is the centerpiece for Slow Food Martha’s Vineyard’s Bee My Honey brunch on Sunday, Feb. 13, at the Chilmark Community Center.
On Saturday, Feb. 12, the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society will present a program of the five live-action Oscar-nominated shorts at the Katharine Cornell Theatre.
“Vanishing of the Bees” examines why honeybees have disappeared without a trace from large sections of the nation — and world. Rather than just issue a simplistic, three-alarm fire call, directors George Langworthy and Maryam Heinem carefully inspect the complex components involved in the bee industry’s crisis. They also offer remedies.
Statistics demonstrate the important role honeybees play in the food chain. A single bee gathers pollen from 100,000 flowers in one day, while drawing nectar to feed members of their hive. One in three fruits consumed in the U.S. are pollinated by bees,
Along the way, “Vanishing of the Bees” provides a wealth of additional information on bee culture. Matriarchal in structure, a honeybee colony consists of one queen bee and many female workers. A smaller number of male drones serve only to mate with the queen.
As honeybees fly to collect food for the hive, the hairs on their legs build up static electricity so that the pollen jumps onto their limbs. If canaries once measured the safety of miners underground, honeybees measure the safety of our food today.
Pennsylvania beekeeper David Hackenberg first called attention to the dilemma of the missing bees in 2000, and “Vanishing of the Bees” uses interviews with him and other beekeepers and apiarists to look at what has been happening to bees.
One beekeeper with 3,000 honeybees found them gone in three hours. Yet no bee corpses were left behind. The queens remained in the hives, frantically trying to feed their remaining babies, who eventually died off.
By 2007, a task force gave the strange disappearance of honeybees a name: “Colony Collapse Disorder.” The directors look at a similar phenomenon that took place in France 10 years ago.
They are cautious not to place the blame exclusively on the modern farming techniques that led to the monoculture agriculture prevalent in the U.S. Yet these massive single-crop farms rely on systemic pesticides that remain in the soil and still don’t prevent crop failure.
The filmgoer is bound to come away from this documentary disturbed and wondering what to do. “Vanishing of the Bees” has suggestions. In addition, Slow Food MV will follow the screening with a panel of experts ready to discuss the dilemma.
Vineyard Haven beekeeper Tim Colon, who has 60 hives, will serve as a panelist, demonstrating with a Langstroth hive and double-mating nuc (nuclear) box as well as bringing honey samples. Owen Ackerman of the Norfolk County, Mass., Beekeepers Association will also serve on the panel. A number of others are expected to participate but have not yet confirmed.
Jan Buhrman of Chilmark’s Kitchen Porch Catering plans a menu of buckwheat pancakes, fruit salad with honey, cinnamon-honey tea bread, honey-glazed chicken and yogurt-honey parfait.
A raffle will take place with bee starter kits and scholarships to an Island bee school on March 25-27 as prizes.
“We have trained ourselves to think we need to rely on the science,” says Ms. Buhrman, “but sometimes our gut tells us what’s going on.” DVD copies of “Vanishing of the Bees” will be available for purchase.
A range of topics come up in the five live-action shorts that will play Saturday, February 12, and the viewer will find each one thought-provoking. The wish that a teenaged cancer patient requests turns out to be more of a challenge than might be imagined in “Wish 143.”
“The Confession” stretches the notion of absolution in disturbing ways, and “The Crush” portrays the consequences of a schoolboy’s infatuation with his teacher. Filmed in black and white, “The God of Love” tells how the Cupid-like powers of a young singer backfire, and “Na Wewe” offers an insightful and comic take on Burundi’s civil war.
The M.V. Film Society is sponsoring an Oscar-winners contest on its website. The prize is an all-access pass to the M.V. International Film Festival on September 8-11
“Vanishing of the Bees,” Sunday, Feb. 13, 10:30 am, Chilmark Community Center. Brunch and panel discussion on honeybees. $16; $12 for Slow Food M.V. members. Slow Food annual membership $25. slowfoodmarthasvineyard.org.
Oscar-Nominated Live-Action Shorts, Saturday, Feb. 12, 7:30 pm, Katharine Cornell Theatre, Vineyard Haven. Doors open at 7 pm. $8; $5 for MVFS members. For more information and Oscar contest ballot, visit mvfilmsociety.com.