‘Sister Bee’ documentary captures spiritual side of beekeeping

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Film focus

WHAT: “Sister Bee”

WHEN: 7 to 8:30 p.m., Friday July 20

WHERE: Talbot Auditorium in Luther Bonney Hall at the University of Southern Maine, Portland

TICKETS: $8 at the door

‘Sister Bee’ documentary captures spiritual side of beekeeping

A honey of a film, “Sister Bee,” directed by former Auburn resident Laura Tyler, will be shown Friday, July 20, in Portland. The lyrical documentary follows six beekeepers in Boulder County, Colo., where Tyler now resides. For these six women, beekeeping is more than a hobby. It’s a means of connecting with the natural world.

“Sister Bee” tracks beekeeping from spring through the fall honey harvest. But it’s the combination of lyrical music, striking visual style and heartfelt interviews illuminating each woman’s personal – and sometimes spiritual – reasons for working with honeybees that makes the film stand out.

Its unique musical score includes women’s vocal improvisations, antique whistling songs and soulful guitar playing.

“Being so close to nature and rural things was inspiring,” Tyler said in a recent interview, crediting a former teacher for introducing her and fellow students to the art of filmmaking. “Mr. Huey was my sixth-grade teacher at Webster School. He was a huge inspiration to me. The class inspired me to believe that this is something I could do.”

Tyler started beekeeping with her husband seven years ago as a hobby. She became engrossed in the process, finding the bees first interesting then fascinating. She wondered why bees are so compelling. Answering that question was her motivation for making the documentary.

“Honeybees are unique. Like a city you can literally hold in the span of your hand, the brood and the bees. (Beekeeping) invites a shift away from the individual to the universal,” Tyler said. “We as a culture tend to get caught up in our individual lives. Keeping bees you witness the bees in your hand. They make you feel like a part of something. They slowed me down. “

Tyler chose to focus on women beekeepers, though she is quick to point out that men care for bees, too. “I put out a casting call to the beekeepers of Boulder County. I settled on six women each at a different stage in her life and in their relationship with their hive/ beekeeping.”

“One is a new mom. Another is in mid-life switching careers, and another was in her 70s at the time of filming. She is in her 80s now. They have a range of experience, life interests,” Tyler noted. “All have less than 10 hives.”

The Portland premiere will be preceded by a live musical performance by Full Circle. A question-and-answer session with Tyler and local beekeepers will follow.

“Sister Bee” was one of 10 short documentaries chosen to screen at the IFP Market in New York in September of 2006. Since then, it has been screened in Boulder, Denver and Fort Collins, Colo. Other screenings are planned in Providence, R.I.; Prescott, Ariz., and Huntington, W.Va.

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