This weekend, the ninth annual DC Shorts Film Festival will prove good things really do come in small packages. Beginning Thursday, the film and screenplay competition plans to serve up a weekend of 140 films from 27 nations.
This year’s festival, the largest film event on the east coast, features one area filmmaker who’s started quite a buzz.
In the spring of 2011, Diana El-Osta was a student at the Institute for Documentary Filmmaking at George Washington University. She recently had read an article about urban beekeeping as a rising trend in New York City. El-Osta, now 28, says the article made her wonder about beekeeping in her own urban community of Washington, D.C.
As she did more research, El-Osta quickly discovered that not only was urban beekeeping on the rise in D.C., but the global bee population was on the decline.
“I wondered if there was a connection between the two,” says El-Osta, who spent her childhood in Rockville and now lives in the District.
Fascinated by both trends, El-Osta and her team of eight set out to find some answers.
The result is the 17-minute film “The Capital Buzz.” It premiered at George Washington University in June 2011, and has gone on to screen at film festivals in Atlanta and Colorado.
The film centers around Jeff Miller, founder of DC Honeybees, a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing the number of beekeepers and bee colonies in the D.C. area.
Miller is a beekeeper himself and houses what he estimates to be hundreds of thousands of bees in hives atop his Georgetown townhouse. As of last spring, Miller and DC Honeybees had installed 65 hives in Washington, D.C.
The film follows El-Osta and her crew as they talk to Miller and other beekeeping experts about the importance of bees to our ecosystem, and what community members can do to propagate bees all over the city.
Bees, along with birds and bats, are pollinating creatures, meaning they help in the growth of plants, including fruits and vegetables. A decline in bees ultimately could mean a decline in food.
“You will have a much more fruitful vegetable garden or flower garden if you keep bees,” explains El-Osta. “One of the things the film touches on is the fact that in urban areas, there’s been a decline in pollinators...due to construction development...Beekeepers are able to mitigate that problem on a small scale.”
Miller and D.C. beekeeper Toni Burnham, both featured in the film, say they never set out to start a revolution in beekeeping, but they wanted a way to make a difference, even if it was a small one in their community.
Although the filmmakers don’t do any beekeeping in the film, El-Osta says she and her crew got plenty of hands on experience.
“[We] absolutely learned a lot about beekeeping,” says El-Osta. “The fun side and the challenges.”
Some of the fun is caught on camera, like when Burnham shows a crew member how to let a bee eat honey from her finger.
But the filmmaking process wasn’t always so sweet.
“While we were filming, Jeff had eight hives on the roof of his house,” says El-Osta. “One of his hives swarmed. It was quite an interesting thing to witness...to see all of these bees buzzing about while people are walking down the streets of Georgetown.”
For El-Osta, the hope for “The Capital Buzz” was that it would raise awareness in the D.C. community.
“[We wanted] to inspire people to learn more about beekeeping in their area and volunteer in a community garden,” says El-Osta.
El-Osta, who now works at the National Geographic Channel, says she aspires to one day become a beekeeper herself.
“I have yet to take a beekeeper’s class,” says El-Osta. “It’s definitely on my to-do list.”