North Macedonia


Nestled in an isolated mountain region deep within the Balkans, Hatidze Muratova lives with her ailing mother in a village without roads, electricity or running water. She’s the last in a long line of Macedonian wild beekeepers, eking out a living farming honey in small batches to be sold in the closest city – a mere four hours walk away. Hatidze’s peaceful existence is thrown into upheaval by the arrival of an itinerant family, with their roaring engines, seven rambunctious children and herd of cattle. Hatidze optimistically meets the promise of change with an open heart, offering up her affections, her brandy and her tried-and-true beekeeping advice.

It doesn’t take long however, before Hussein, the itinerant family’s patriarch, senses opportunity and develops an interest in selling his own honey. Hussein has seven young mouths to feed and nowhere to graze his cattle, and he soon casts Hatidze’s advice aside in his hunt for profit. This causes a breach in the natural order that provokes a conflict with Hatidze that exposes the fundamental tension between nature and humanity, harmony and discord, exploitation and sustainability. Even as the family provides a much-needed respite from Hatidze’s isolation and loneliness, her very means of survival are threatened.

Director's Statement

Fifteen years ago, when I first encountered Slan Dol, the region of the village Bekirlija, I was completely fascinated. Not only by its scenery but also by its 'wilderness'. During 2014 and 2015, while shooting for another project, I accidentally ran into Hatidze's bee holes, and soon after, into herself. Suddenly, my entire impression of that wilderness was turned into another dimension: human-like. Her story, lifestyle and figure are, to me, the boldest example of someone who not that only has passed his entire life in the wilderness but became a part of it as well. Overtly inspiring.
The co-authorship is a complex model of filmmaking which ought to be justified. Tamara and I already made one film two years ago. My impressions from her graduation film provoked me to ask her to work with me. From the very beginning of the preparations, it was clear that we were completely on the same wavelength while making the story. This perception carried on until the film was finished. A few months after we had started working on that film, we began the research for HONEYLAND, that is, more than 30 days of field work, including the shootings.
It's been almost a year since we've been working on the film together, and everything that has been created by now is a result of a continuous, interactive process of complementing.

My collaboration with Ljubo Stefanov started in 2016 as a screenwriter and co-director of another documentary film, LAKE OF APPLES. In that period he had showed me the first footage of the beekeepers of wild bees in the region of Slan Dol, where, soon after, we started researching the story about Hatidze. I was quite shocked when I met her and faced her raw lifestyle (instantly joined by our four-member team as the only visitors who, during the shooting days, were sleeping, eating and living as they did - in an abandoned house, without electricity or any networking). Prior to that, none of the members of our team was familiar with beekeeping, especially not in that exotic manner. Nevertheless, after we had passed the entire spring, summer and autumn in Bekirlija, Hatidze acquainted us with every detail of the complex process that was her lifetime occupation. Hence, just like she must transfer the bees across the rocks, we realised that we also must take her incredible life story along and tell it far from the canyon rock and the long-forgotten village Bekirlija. Otherwise, she and her mother would be the last and least to know the story.
One truly significant factor in the process of the building of this story was the fact that we, as authors, are a male and a female, and this combination of two distinctive approaches to Hatidze had supported our completion of the story. She easily confided to me, as to a woman, and openly discussed her private life and the problems she had been facing - the reason she never left Bekirlija and why she never had any children. Being childless, she developed an extraordinary relationship with the bees. She has created a special verbal communication with them, which they follow accordingly, using phrases like “mat-mat” when calling for the queen bee. She told us that she couldn't imagine her life without them, so her affection and care towards them reflect her heroism.
The story about Hatidze, the bee heroine, is a story that can trigger a different perspective on life and motivate numerous people to find their inner strength and reflect themselves in this unordinary heroine, quite different from anything we've seen before.

Director's Biography

Born in 1975 in Skopje, Ljubo has over 20 years of experience in development and production of communication concepts and documentaries related to environmental issues and human development. He has worked for clients such UN agencies, Euronatur, Swisscontact etc.

Born in Prilep in 1993, Tamara graduated in Film Directing from the Faculty of Dramatic Arts - Skopje. She has five years of experience in documentary and fiction filmmaking as a freelance film director. Tamara lives and works in Skopje.

2017 - LAKE OF APPLES, doc.

Cast & Crew

Directed by: Ljubomir Stefanov, Tamara Kotevska

Produced by: Atanas Georgiev

Cinematography: Fejmi Daut, Samir Ljuma

Editing: Atanas Georgiev

Original Score: Foltin

Sound: Rana Eid

Nominations and Awards

  • European Documentary 2019
  • Documentary Selection 2019