Need to Know Oneself

in 34th Ljubljana International Film Festival

by Michela Manente

Already featuring as a candidate in the final five for the European Discovery – Prix FIPRESCI, the Spanish movie 20,000 Species of bees (20.000 especies de abejas) by the Basque director Estibaliz Urresola Salaguren is an appreciable matriarchal, green drama.

In the Spanish Basque Country, the hive is a special place in nature to be safeguarded; not only is it the last natural habitat in a globalized world, but it is also a metaphor for our society, where men and women, as well as kings and queens, play their role facing the gender diversity. An eight-year-old child (Sofía Otero, who won the Silver Bear in Berlin for Best Leading Performance for the role of Lucía) is looking for a role in life pretending to be Cocò, observed by the women of his family, including the attentive and caring aunt Lourdes, the beekeeper. The mother Ane (Patricia López Arnaiz) cannot admit easily to herself, nor in front of her mother Lita, that she came with the three kids for the summer holidays, crossing the borders from Bayonne in France, and that her life has come to a turning point, both personally and professionally.

In fact, another central theme dealt with in the film is that of culture and art that contrasts with the perfection of nature, although it can get sick too. The final scene reinforces the need to know oneself and to be recognized by others: Cocò will finally be able to face self-doubts and inner fears, find their true gender identity and thus decide what their name is.

At the end, can this family understand each other better? For sure for this summer, which will change their lives, the three women from three very different generations, as well as the whole family, will be forced to face their concerns and anguish. Thus unfolds a deeply moving drama about their fragilities and hopes that can be assumed as universal. At the 34. LIFFE Festival (Ljubljana, Slovenia, 8-19 November 2023), this intense first feature had five screenings and competed in the Perspektive section. Many important prizes have already been attributed to 20,000 Species of Bees, including for the “female ensemble”, which seems to be the most peculiar feature of the film together with a focus on ecological and environmental issues. 

Michela Manente
Edited by Birgit Beumers