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The Last Honey Hunter

The filmmaking of adventures is a high tension task to secure outstanding moments of footage. Renan Ozturk, the filmmaker and climber set out to shoot the excitement of the last Napalese Honey Hunter in collaboration with National Geographic and The North Face. These Nepalese Men touch Himalayan bees to harvest their high valued medicinal and hallucinogenic honey.

The documentary showcases Renan and his team following the honey hunters through forests and filming in bee suits on ladders in the cliffs whilst being stung by bees. The worldwide release of the entire film is planned in 2018.

The journey in eastern Nepal to get hallucinogenic honey is a hard endeavor, selected men of the Kulung people face rope ladders in 250 foot cliffs to get the precious liquid while smoking swarms of bees with burning grass on the ground.

Members of the filmmaking team said when you got overwhelmed it made sense to look at the honey hunter without bee suit on the ladder to calm down your self. Himalayan bees make psychotropic mad honey in the spring by accessing grayanotoxins in the nectar of the flowers.

The honey trader of the village described the effects of ingesting a large amount of mad or red honey, at the beginning the body wants to vomit or defecate, afterwards you are switching between dark and light, sometimes you can see and apparently you can't see, it seems that you can't move your self, but you realize that you are totally lucid. This kind of consciousness may last for 20 hours. Traditionally use local people small dosages of mad honey for a variety of medicinal purposes. The sustainable honey hunts may not continue for much longer  because the young people move away and prefer to life in cities and due to government policies giving away privileges to contractors. 

The short documentary the Last Honey Hunter premiered at Telluride Mountainfilm Festival. Producer Ben Ayers worked with filmmaker Ben Knight and Renan Ozturk, starting with footage in 2016 and explain the story of Mauli, a 58 year old honey hunter. Mauli and his team harvest poisonous, hallucinogenic honey with its medicinal effects and thus achieving sustainable and lucrative prices in other Asian countries, Europe and America. 

Ben Ayers had the idea for the film 8-9 years ago, it became his first film production and the audience at Mountainfilm embraced the documentary. The expedition led us through the art of filmmaking, forests, protecting spirits, scaring cliffs and the expected big release of the film in 2018.

The forest spirit called Rongkemi is selecting honey hunters through a remarkable dream from the Kulung, an ethnic group living in Saadi, Nepal. The dream is about being catched in the web of a spider on the cliff and a white monkey is going to rescue you, the one, the honey hunter.

Mauli rejected the plans to make a movie several times, until he said ok, lets do it but keep in mind this is the last time.

The Kulung culture is reflecting an animistic and shamanistic culture being the transmitter between our world and the spirit world, we felt the power of this culture and the places for hunting the honey. Rongkemi has been called several times while we were on the cliffs, the shaman is calling the spirit, electronics shut down when the spirit popped up, unbelievable, but things like that occurred almost every day.

Behind the scenes happenings were quite extreme, we had 17 bags of shooting equipment, it took us 3 days driving and 3 days of hiking in order to reach the perfect place for the shootings and climbing the ladder to the top of the cliffs was horrible, risky climbing. Without the support from the locals we were unable to complete film materials in the cliffs. The bee suits did not work accordingly because the largest honeybees in the world sting through the material of the bee suits.

The visual impact of the honey harvest is a challenging atmosphere, the local community might be comfortable with the hard life out there and take risks, but we felt like bouncing in an absolute decadence. The Kulungs are doing a great, dangerous job, people have died doing it, its a big deal for them as well but they seem to be calm like it would be a routine. 

Ben took the opportunity a make a fantastic film, amazing footage was secured, huge beehives, hunting habits, beehives falling down and Ben preferred to shine on what was ticking in Mauli's head, the locals, rituals and their lives.

It has been a pleasure settling down back in camp, impressed and exhausted. Mauli had a swollen face from the stings of the bees and he gave us the feeling that we don't need to idolize his personality because we have witnessed what happened up there. The relationship of Maui to a wrathful cliff spirit is not to worry about, the only thing is growing old and remaining upset with the fact that he might not be capable to continue honey hunting, Rongkemi and the dream may have the answer.

The Last Honey Hunt should animate the locals to enjoy a sense of sensation and a special pride for their outstanding community, the film crew instead is delighted by being probably the only film team documenting insights of the Kulung.

It seemed to be strenuous what Mauli goes through, we think honestly he is done with harvesting hallucinogenic, medicinal mad honey. Mauli is very glad that the harvest and the film shootings were successful and he is strongly hoping that one of the younger locals will have the awakening dream or they do it without having it, its possible that we captured the very last time the honey hunting session of the Nepalese Kulung.