Directed by: Mitoshka Alkova
Starring: Mario Sant, Antoine Galea
The joys of attending a film festival are not just limited to your introduction to talented filmmakers and their lesser-known works. But sometimes, you come across films - especially documentaries - that import you to an obscure destination and reveal facts that would have otherwise never crossed your radar. At that juncture, I think of myself as an explorer (like Christopher Columbus) who has disinterred a secret location. Anyone else feels the same way?
In Melita, a 15-minute documentary from Mitoshka Alkova, the director takes us to Melita. Wikipedia informs me that “Melita was an ancient city located on the site of present-day Mdina and Rabat, Malta.” Malta derives from the word Melita, which translates to honey. And what is Malta known for? The Apis Mellifera Ruttneri, a rare species of honey bee that is native to the island. These bees are gradually and alarmingly moving on the path of extinction. If the negligence towards this species continues, then soon you will find this line everywhere, “Malta was known for the Apis Mellifera Ruttneri.”
With Melita, Alkova tries to amplify the humming of the bees and the voices of the very few who are ensuring that the bees remain on the earth. The narrator informs if one were to stand silent and still, one could hear the hum. Follow the hum, and you will encounter the unsung heroes. A beekeeper named Mario Sant has been observing and studying the bees for more than 50 years. As per his views, these bees are crucial because they make the people Maltese. His expert opinion advises against the import of foreign bees.
The people who are questioned in Melita perorate their concern with utmost poignancy and urgency. Antoine Galea, from Beesavers Malta, turns the pages of a 1989 book to notify us about the various rare or extinct species. “Actually cried when I read this book, it’s depressing when I see it,” he says. The immense greed mixed with the selfish quality of human beings has led to the death of many plants and animals from the environment. Alkova chooses to cut betwixt the shots of high-rising buildings, both developed and developing, and the rebuffed ruins to highlight how dismissive we can be regarding our cultural identity. As one person notes, we have become more seduced by money, giving rise to an anti-nature psyche. Like everywhere else, people in Malta are drawn towards corporate jobs rather than preserving rare species (here, beekeeping).
Melita is a sad reminder of the current state of our wildlife. It urges us to stand together, like those bees on the hive frames, and save our local flora and fauna from complete eradication.