William McGregor’s latest documentary short is an enraging but impassioned observation of the battle between preserving rural heritage and urban colonialism, a battle that takes place on the mesmeric coast of Anglesey.
McGregor has shown a fascination throughout his short but impressive career towards the symbiotic relationship between people and the environments they inhabit, often picturesque rural landscapes. In his emphatic feature debut Gwen (also featuring rural North Wales), McGregor dips his toes into nightmarish folk-lore to depict a grieving female family unit struggling to fend off the advances of top-hatted Quarry owners, and with Gun Dog, his upcoming sophomore effort, McGregor seems to bring this focus into more action-filled territory.
The Beekeeper continues with this trend through the experiences of Katie Hayward, ‘The Queen Bee of Anglesey’, an ardent Beekeeper whose family home is threatened by an emerging power plant that is scheduled to be erected on her doorstep. McGregor, through his tranquil photographic style, observes Hayward’s coastal cottage as it overlooks a decommissioned power plant; a juxtaposition of architecture that outlines McGregor’s David vs. Goliath, rural vs. urban struggle for dominance.
As a self-confessed ‘farm boy turned film boy’, there’s an element of bias in McGregor’s siding in this mismatched tug-of-war. It is told entirely through Hayward’s perspective, inviting the viewer to sympathise and empathise with her plight as she either observes the camera dead on or fills the diegesis with narration. And as a subject, Hayward is most effective in evoking sympathy and empathy; she’s well-spoken, driven, fiery, but above all, compassionate. She delivers ‘bee therapy’ sessions for women who have suffered at the hands of domestic violence and for those suffering from post-traumatic stress. Through the surrogacy of her bees she encourages her community to connect with nature, to restore a sense of natural tranquility to ease the pressures of everyday life.
McGregor’s subjectivity, then, is to be expected. Admirably, though, Hayward herself is shown to juggle objectivity and subjectivity. While she resists the ‘monster’ executives who threaten her home, she also understands the importance of these plants and their efforts to combat global warming. She pleads “I’m not against what they are doing, it’s the way they are doing it”; a testimony towards her inspiring personality.
There is also a potent metaphor to be unlocked while examining the prevalence of bees in both Hayward’s life and in McGregor’s film. Like her bees, Hayward is seen as a nuisance and as a threat to the development of the power plant, despite her unquestionable connection with nature and the fruits of our world. Like her bees, she is a companion to Mother Nature and must be preserved.
As Hayward drives down a country road, she points to the desolate, barren fields that have been colonised by construction. “That was a home”, she says. “And that was another”. By the time McGregor’s short film comes to its conclusion, we witness a victory in an otherwise futile fight. Hayward’s ancient monument will never join the homes that have been stripped from nature.
Directed by: William McGregor