The buzz in the swarm: The Secret Life of Bees


Bees are the centre of this story. The storyline of ‘The Secret Life of Bees’ is the life of Lily Owens, a 14 year-old girl who is haunted by the memory of her late mother. It is set in 1964, in South Carolina. Trying to escape her lonely life and a troubled father-relationship, Lily flees with Rosaleen, her caregiver and friend, to land in a South Carolina town (which holds the secret to her mother’s past). Here she is exposed to the intelligent, independent Boatwright sisters, and finds solace in their mesmerizing world of “beekeeping”. August Boatwright (Queen Latifah) is a self-made woman who runs her own successful honey-making business. She is helped by her sisters May (Sophie Okonedo) and June (Alicia Keys). August takes Lily and Rosaleen under her wing, and starts training Lily as an apprentice beekeeper and enlists Rosaleen to help out in the kitchen. The world August and her sisters have built for themselves, in their comfortably furnished house, where everyone pitches in and supports one another, is new to both Rosaleen and Lily. From a disturbed past, they have entered a world where it suddenly seems possible to shape their own future.

The movie then delves into a world of bees. It’s all about bees, raw honey, beekeeping, and even an angle of a bee epidemic. ‘The Secret Life of Bees’ is not a documentary, but a beautiful story, against the unusual setting of bees. For a 16-year old entrepreneur this turns out to be a pretty good deal.
If you look at entrepreneurs, they are people who not only have innovative ideas, but who created new paradigms of success. The movie is about how to live your impossible dream and change the world. The story reveals how the tone and tenor of the specific time and place affects business activities and those activities are affected by the economic, social, political realities of the day.

The culture around is filled with stories of self-determination aimed at young women. The phrase “girl power” gains a unique significance here. Not many stories are set in the 1960s South and feature a range of black characters (as well as just one lone white character — Lily is the minority here). In fact, I can’t think of any recent movie that’s anything like “The Secret Life of Bees.” There is a hint of a romance between Lily Zachary (Tristan Wilds), who helps out with the honey business. But, the movie doesn’t take the romantic view — that love can conquer all — because in the South in the mid-’60s, it definitely couldn’t. “The Secret Life of Bees” is realistic in its assessment of the way things used to be (even though it wasn’t how things should have been).

Perseverance is key, especially for women in business. She struggles as a woman, but is a picture of confidence in a largely male-dominated career path. Latifah is, inspiring as she is cast as the strong, sensible type, and why not? Her strong portrayal of August Boatwright is that of an entrepreneur, with common sense, a warm, welcoming presence in that strange world.

The movie’s best lesson is – get ready to go to war every day, come rain or sunshine, if you want to build a big company. Latifah displayed it’s always a multi-front battle as you don’t just fight one war every day. She showed fast growth entrepreneurship does not need men, women or degrees. It needs warriors. We hear about entrepreneurial lessons of “follow your passion, don’t quit, do what you love” – that’s what you see here!

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