The Secret World of Herbs: In the Balkans (Episode 2)

Epoch Cinema
Epoch Cinema
September 4, 2021Cinemashare00

In the pristine nature and mild climate of southeastern Europe grows a unique diversity of wild plants. Far removed from major industry and polluted soils, the Balkan countries have become the largest exporter of herbs in Europe. In Bulgaria alone, more than 300,000 people work with domestic plants. The business is becoming increasingly lucrative.

The film takes us to the Croatian coast. On the Adriatic island of Cres, the audience meets Mladen Dragoslavić. In May, when the sage begins to blossom, this beekeeper has one month to produce his income for an entire year – always with the goal of creating the best sage honey in the Balkans. Given a choice, the bees would never choose sage, for entering and exiting the narrow blossom is strenuous. Within three weeks, maximum, Mladen must remove his bees from the island. Otherwise they will die of exhaustion.

In Skopje, the capital of Macedonia, the film visits Iva Yosifova. Hollyhock provides the raw material for her objects of art. The herb is medically beneficial, due to its mucilage, which is added to many cough tea mixtures. Iva, though, makes paper from hollyhock. Thanks to the herb’s long fibres, the paper can be spread onto objects and modeled. The technique produces delicate sculptures, as fragile as nature.

In Trigrad, a small village in the Bulgarian Rhodopes, locals consider the wild mountain tea a miracle cure that enhances virility and guarantees longevity. The great demand nearly decimated the herb. The film encounters Michaela Yordanowa, busy in her garden laboratory, crossing the wild mountain tea until she has plants robust enough to be reproduced. The new breed is meant to help the local population cultivate the valuable herb in their domestic gardens or fields.

In the Bulgarian Balkan Mountains – a region plagued by high unemployment and depopulation – we encounter Nikola Nikolov. The village teacher from Chiprovtsi has started a garden with his pupils, growing dyer’s madder. The plant was already extinct in Chiprovtsi, although its root, for centuries, had been used to dye wool. The local villagers had produced mainly carpets, with herbal dyes making each specimen unique. Nikola wants to restore the memory of dyer’s madder. The work with his pupils has revitalized the village, and the dyes have revived an old weaver’s craft.

The film explores the world of herbs in the Balkans, portraying people who, each in his or her own way, are using wild plants for their own purposes, while also striving to preserve the traditional knowledge.

A film by Sebastian Lindemann

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2016     46 min.     PG     English, French, German    


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