Hot Docs 2017: Bee Nation
Bee Nation is a heartwarming, inspiring story that foregrounds important issues within indigenous communities, seen through the eyes of the younger generation and their potential to make a difference for the future, by way of their education.
Over the course of the film, we see the firsthand experiences of several children from the Kahkewistahaw First Nation Reserve in Saskatchewan competing in the inaugural First Nations Provincial Spelling Bee. We get to know the various contestants, each under the pressure of having to memorize some 400 words for the chance at greatness, but on a much larger note, hoping that the opportunity will lead for the chance for them and their families to see their lives improved via the opportunity to leave the reserve, leading to a fresh start.
The pressures of the competition are immense, and as anyone who has been part of a spelling bee before can attest to, one wrong word can result in failure, making the proceedings extremely tense. The goal of making it as far as the National competition held in Toronto, becomes a high stakes objective. Lana Šlezić, who writes, produces, and directs Bee Nation, does a fantastic job of providing a humane outlook to the plight of the children and their parents - many of whom have only a Grade 12 education before moving onto basic occupations, if they work at all. Thus, much tension erupts from making sure their kids get as far as possible, leading to a number of heightened emotional responses at every high and low of the journey.
Bee Nation manages to be a powerful, challenging, and crowd pleasing endeavour; a thoroughly Canadian story and one that helps to bring attention to issues within First Nations cultures that are in need of greater emphasis. It is sure to be one of the most important Canadian docs of the year.