The Beekeeper and his Son

Diedie Weng on her first feature Documentary

Director's Note

After finishing my documentary study in the US in 2009, I moved back to China. First I worked in Beijing for a year and a half and then followed my interest in working on a community video project in the countryside in Northern China. Whilst living there, I met the beekeeper Lao Yu and his family.

In my spare time I would often visit the beekeeper’s family and became close friends with them. Fascinated by Lao Yu’s close relationship with his bees, I began filming his craft and exploring the environmental threats to his bees' health. The return of the beekeeper’s son Maofu, however, shifted my focus for the film towards the father and son relationship.

Whilst living in this region I was struck by the fact that there were hardly any young people left in the villages. Most of them, like Maofu, had left for the big cities as migrant workers or opening canteens and restaurants. Traditionally the younger generations are supposed to take over family property and care for their ageing parents, but these days the old are left behind to take care of grandchildren, the land and themselves. While the younger generations struggle to find their direction and their new identities, the older generations are following the old ways; spending their savings to help their children build new houses and pay for their weddings. Living close to these families, I began to observe the tension among the generations and became concerned about how they would communicate their needs and connect with each other.

Once he had returned home, Maofu showed more passion for sales and marketing than understanding the bees. Lao Yu, already in his early seventies, feared that he would not have the capacity to build a new house for his son. He hoped that he could help him establish his career as a beekeeper. Both father and son had considerable anxiety and fear, but could not communicate, sometimes choosing to talk about their feelings and thoughts to me and my camera instead of to each other.

Despite the tension between the father and son, I felt that the limited time they shared together was still very valuable and rich. I sought to capture the personal ways in which their worlds and times met and crashed into each other. I kept searching for the love and tenderness inside them and possible bridges between the two generations.

In 2012, I left China again to join my husband who was studying for his PhD in Canada. Making this film has enabled me to better understand my own longing for home and understand my issues about communication with my parents. Although my parents came from rural China, where my grandma still lives, I grew up in the city. Now I am the only person from my family who lives abroad. Like Maofu and many other young people, I have been searching for my own identity and struggle to communicate with my parents. This film has brought me closer to the perspectives of both generations and helped me better understand the dynamics of the relationships within my own family.