The Wonders of Beekeeping

I’m wondering if anyone reading this blog has seen a movie called The Wonders. It’s a beekeeping movie. Sort of. From what I’ve read about the film (and seen in the trailers) it appears to be an Italian Ulee’s Gold with English subtitles.  Do you remember Ulee’s Gold? It was the story of a ulee_vidFlorida beekeeper with a messed up family. Artistically, it was brilliant. Apiculturally, it was also brilliant – and that doesn’t happen often in the theatre when bees are involved. Ulee’s was a major movie with the star (Peter Fonda) receiving the Oscar’s best actor nomination in 1997. It’s still one of my favourite films. Here’s a link to Ulee’s trailer – if you like it, you’ll find the movie in some libraries, maybe even on YouTube, here. If you like slow-paced drama with lots of bees, Ulee’s Gold is your movie.

I don’t know if The Wonders is as good as Ulee’s Gold. From the little that I’ve seen, it’s more artsy. On the other hand, the Daily Herald calls it a post-realism film that borders on documentary: “this hyper-realistic drama could pass for a documentary on the lives of a family of Italian beekeepers in rural Tuscany.” Then the reviewer tells us that the movie records the “unhurried, unexciting daily routines” of beekeeping which suggests that this might not be a bee movie after all.  However, it does have bees, so that could make up for almost any flaws.

Get in the Car

The movie is about an impoverished family of beekeepers (why are beekeeping families poor in the movies, but so rich off stage?). They are husband/beekeeper, wife/sometimes-mom, and five daughters. Gelsomina, the 13-year-old, is beginning to feel independent and manipulates the family into being featured on an Italian reality TV show that comes to the region in search of a ‘typical family with traditional values’. Meanwhile, the father’s business is almost ruined by new government rules on honey house cleanliness, so he takes in a 14-year-old juvenile delinquent to help with the work and because the government will pay papa to foster the wayward boy. If all this sounds complicated, it is. But the movie unfolds slowly over two hours, so you have plenty of time to check your notes if you get confused.

The Wonders beekeeper, why not

The WondersThe Wonders (Le meraviglie)  has won 14 significant prizes, including Munich Film Festival’s Best Film by an Emerging Director, the Abu Dhabi Film Festival’s Black Pearl Award, and Cannes’ Grand Prize of the Jury. At Cannes’ the film ended with 12 minutes of audience applause! The movie is apparently very good. It opened in November, 2105, at select theatres, but like so many great films, it appears to have missed a screening in my hometown, Calgary. This again reminds me of Ulee’s Gold which was shown in an artsy show hall downtown here instead of the massive box-theatres where one could find much livelier and stupider entertainment. Which brings me back to my original question: Have any of the readers of this blog seen this movie? Or have any ideas of where to watch it?

Update: August 3, 2016

Well, I watched the movie. For a beekeeper, there were at least a dozen distracting fundamental errors (including the extractor which looms large in the plot and runs non-stop for hours and hours dribbling into pails – maybe it symbolizes the existential angst of unachievable satisfaction.)  More importantly, the movie was too dark and depressing for me. I know, I know. It was supposed to be moody and bleak. But really? I was surprised when it ended. Is that it? Is that all we get? Really? Is the entire movie simply a metaphor for the existential angst of unachievable satisfaction? Or what?

About Ron Miksha

Ron Miksha is a bee ecologist working at the University of Calgary. He is also a geophysicist and does a bit of science writing and blogging. Ron has worked as a radio broadcaster, a beekeeper, and Earth scientist. (Ask him about seismic waves.) He's based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
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11 Responses to The Wonders of Beekeeping

  1. The Wonders trailer has the sea and bees. I’ll be looking out for it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Miksha says:

      I’ll keep looking, too. Maybe someone will come up with an idea. I searched Netflix with no luck (at least Canadian Netflix, which is often different from other countries).


  2. wobbles says:

    If you don’t mind the illegality, download the torrent. It is on under the Italian name

    Le Meraviglie
    and has English subtitles


    • Miksha says:

      Thanks for the comment and thanks for finding the film. I’ve never used torrent and won’t do this. I’ll keep looking for a legal way to get a copy. But the movie’s availability on torrent does point out that if it’s hard to find a movie, it will become available in dubious places. That should encourage producers and distributors to make their products readily available and at a fair price, lest it become pirated as this one apparently has been. (I am a fan of open source software and have even sent money to support Open Office, Gimp, Wikipedia, and Irfanview. But that’s stuff that’s is intended to be shared. For me, YouTube is a bit gray. I embedded the movie trailer here and I have embedded other film clips from YouTube in the past, so that might not be too different from torrent. What do you think?)


  3. TS Terry says:

    If you use it’s there in their videos to download and buy for about $15. I think you just get a download copy, not a DVD. Not sure if it works outside USA?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ivan Cerny says:

    Hello Ron,
    this movie was introduced in Czech Rep. one and half years ago and distributing company asked me to have short talk for audience who have no experience in beekeeping prior the projection. So I watched the movie in advance and try to explain something. I doubt whether successfully, however. Good movie but I have not seen Ulee’s Gold, unfortunately.
    The movie is to buy and download here, however it is Italian version with Czech subtitles so I guess it is of little help for you.
    I wrote short review of the movie for our beekeeping magazine

    ( and I will try to translate it (sorry for my not perfect English):

    Is there a way to recognize whether movie reviewer is or is not a beekeeper? Sure and it is pretty easy. You have to wait till someone produces a movie which tells to beekeepers something very different than to rest of population and then go over movie reviews. Such movie for convenient tracking reviewers immunity from beekeeping was introduced in Czech on August 14 [2014]. The Wanders by Italian director Alice Rohrwacher.
    By the way it has won Cannes’ grand Prize and was introduced at Karlovy Vary Film Festival. The movie is cruel and very true from beekeeper’s point of view. You breath together with characters and see yourselves in the same situations. I noticed just two moments in the movie which would be different in reality – reality would be even much stronger. First is after poisoning the bees by agriculture spraying where just one hive from apiary died. And the second moment is when the family of beekeeper has to quickly leave honey house and forgets close the door. Returning back after few hours they find honey room status very changed but robbing bees were not the reason. Something like that would be probably too much even for very unscrupulous film producers.
    And the recognizing of reviewers beekeeping immunity? For example Mrs. Hermanova according it’s review is not immune at all and I would not be surprised to meet her at beekeeping course. Those who don’t see on the movie more than just conflict of juvenile daughter and authoritative father and those who use words like “world championship of cheerless”, “tedious and distress” or “ghastly protracted and annoying movie” are safely immune from beekeeping.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Miksha says:

      Hello Ivan Černý,
      Thank you for your interesting and detailed comments on The Wonders! Now I must watch it! Congratulations for being invited to speak to the audience before the film began. I am certain that your discussion would have helped non-beekeepers understand the movie better. Many times movies featuring bees are difficult for beekeepers to watch, but from your review, I can see that I will enjoy it. You have told us that “the movie is very true from the beekeeper’s point of view.” Thank you for taking the time to translate your original review which you have printed in the journal Modern Beekeeper (MODERNI VČELAŘ). I notice that you have titled your review “Zázraky Alice Rohrwacherové” (The Wonders of Alice Rohrwacher”) which makes it a nice tribute to the director in her award-winning movie. (The 34-year-old director, Alice Rohrwacher, is from Tuscany, had an Italian mother and a German father who was a beekeeper. This certainly helped her create a movie which stayed true to beekeeping and the culture and environment of Tuscany.)
      Thank you for your comments!


  5. Ivan Cerny says:

    You are welcome.


  6. I’m surprised I did not hear about this movie when it came out as I’m generally abreast with movies related to beekeeping in one way or another. Checked out the trailer, I don’t mind bleak movies, but can’t seem to find a DVD here in Australia or on our Netflix 😦


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