Chuck Jaffee: A final look at films screening at Wild & Scenic, happening now |

Chuck Jaffee: A final look at films screening at Wild & Scenic, happening now

Chuck Jaffee
Special to Prospector

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth of a four-week series of Prospector and Spotlight reviews leading up to the 18th Wild & Scenic Film Festival in Nevada City and Grass Valley, Jan. 16-20.


Meet Hatidze Muratova. Know her and the old world she inhabits. In Northern Macedonia, maybe a dozen miles from hundreds of thousands of people in the capital city, her homestead feels remote and 150 years ago.

A radio (not a TV) hints that she is connected to the modern world. A recreational vehicle on the neighbor’s land drops another hint, although the suggestion it holds may be that Hatidze’s old ways are the sturdy, transcendent ones.

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In the film “Honeyland,” Hatidze Muratova tends to her bees. In the beautiful tone of the opening scene, she walks a narrow path on a cliff above the countryside. Amidst the rocks, she tends to some of her bees. On her land, her hives don’t look like the boxes and racks on her neighbor’s property.

Hatidze tries to help the family next door. It’s questionable whether they have any sense of oneness with the land or the bees. They don’t seem to understand the importance of taking half of the honey for sale; leaving half for the bees. They are unruly. Hatidze is centered, devoted, giving.

Hatidze, a fiftyish, peasant woman, tends to her invalid mother, the loving fixture of her home. In her soul, Hatidze carries life’s lesson. A person is who a person is, and the vitality of her place is to carry on.

The documentary result is remarkable in its spare, respectful style and mundane tension. It’s remarkable not only in what you experience on-screen, but also in imagining the years of hours filmmakers must have spent bringing us Hatidze’s life.

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating

“Time unused vanishes.” Although this rings profound, used time also seems to vanish. Anyway, this heady tidbit is spoken by a bedridden woman in “The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating.”

This film dials down, well, to a snail’s pace. It challenges your potentially restless sitting posture to match the narrator’s inability to even sit up. For 15 minutes, it’s time to watch a snail.

The caregiver (not shown) at first leaves the snail to slime around wherever, but then puts it in a terrarium. The snail leverages changing light and smells in the air to inform its movement – courageous movement, so the narrator thinks.

Is your life ever so still that you can hear the sound of a snail eating? Well, the woman with all her imprisoned senses declares that she can. It’s not clear that the sound the audience hears is a live actual recording of this white-lipped forest snail’s hundreds of teeth. The woman, so aware of her companion, notices that the snail can lie dormant, shrunk into its shell, waiting for better conditions.

The film has its excitement. Eggs appear. They turn into 118 babies. Not much is made of this, and the caregiver (still not shown) lets them go.

At the end of this respectfully meditative motion picture, a familiar message appears, one common to concerned movie goers: “No animals were harmed in the making of this film.”

From Camel to Cup

Got milk? Maybe you do, but have you got camel milk? You find camel milk almost entirely in Somalia and as represented in the film, “From Camel to Cup,” also in Kenya (second place). Before long though, it may find a niche in the United States, or at least Europe.

The milk is said to have medicinal qualities, may be helpful dealing with diabetes and autism. Without quite going there, it may be helpful for those who are lactose intolerant or looking for a crutch to lose weight. Without quite going there, it’s nutritious, tasty, and a curious economic alternative to cow’s milk.

Think global climate change. Some places may not get 10 days of rain in a year. Camels can give milk after being without water for a month. Even if it doesn’t reach Paris or New York, desert locales in Somalia and Kenya could benefit from expanding the camel milk business. Cows, by the way, stop giving milk if they don’t have water for two days.

Camel milk sales could benefit by improving production – travel time, no refrigeration. Forty percent of milk goes bad. People are just figuring out processing and pasteurization (although it may be that unprocessed and unpasteurized tastes better). Whatever way, it could become a mainstay if more restaurants, hotels, and hospitals only knew.

Camels may be known for kicking and spitting, but they’re actually docile and friendly with people they trust. Camels could become known for boosting Somalian and Kenyan economies. Camel latte anyone?

Follow the Drinking Gourd

The film title, “Follow the Drinking Gourd,” refers to the Little Dipper with the North Star on its handle. Escaping slaves knew to follow the North Star. When slaves escaped the land they were tied to, they searched for freedom. What they needed, says a quotation in the film, were “homes and the ground beneath them that we may plant fruit trees and say to our children that these are forever yours.”

The film, set in Oakland, California, is spoken by Blacks for Blacks, who have been exploited — historically, systemically through time. Exploitation, that’s another word for capitalism. “Follow the Drinking Gourd” actually speaks to everyone, and it isn’t a nerdy or heavy film.

The film puts its hands in the dirt, the soil, the compost, the pots, the gardens, the stores, the neighborhoods, and urban farming. The kids learn about the growing cycle, hands on. The community interacts with a middle-aged lady with a garden in her front yard. A young man makes seeds from the food he grows. He doesn’t buy them from Monsanto or DuPont.

The film watches a worm eating and pooping and listens to a poet lady talking “cosmic compost.” We’ve got to find ways to keep regenerating our soil. We need grass roots ways to help us realize that we the people provide the food. The film shares a July 3 “interdependence day,” looking at us feeding ourselves, taking better care of ourselves.

The North Star in “Follow the Drinking Gourd” symbolizes guidance in everyone’s same sky, in the food that everyone eats – and nurtures.

Chuck Jaffee of Grass Valley likes to plug people into the spirit of independent filmmakers. Find his other articles for The Union at

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