© DCM Film Distribution GmbH

20.000 Arten von Bienen (20,000 Species of Bees, 20.000 especies de abejas)
Spain 2023

Opening 29 Jun 2023

Directed by: Estibaliz Urresola Solaguren
Writing credits: Estibaliz Urresola Solaguren
Principal actors: Sofía Otero, Patricia López Arnaiz, Ane Gabarain, Itziar Lazkano, Martxelo Rubio

In the opening scene, there is an extreme closeup of Ane (Patricia López Arnaiz), a doting mother lying in bed with her youngest child, beautiful, dainty, eight-year-old Aitor having a loving heart to heart talk. Ane’s tender probing is almost suffocating.

Then it’s off on summer holiday. Ane living on the French border in Bayonne takes her three children for an idyllic vacation to her childhood home in pastoral Spanish Basque Country. They move in with Ane’s crusty mother Lita (Itziar Lazkano), who intuitively presumes that Ane’s marriage is falling apart and she is in need of financial help. Ane, an artist, denies it all and concentrates on reviving her career in the workshop of her late father, a renowned sculptor.

But that is just the subplot of this tender gradual-transitioning story of her youngest child. Aitor (movingly played by Sofía Otero), assigned male at birth, identifies as a girl, and I assume it is how the audience identifies this delicate-looking child from the very first scene. There is the aha moment watching Aitor, upon arriving to the countryside, peeing in the woods standing up. Now that the moviegoer is in on the secret, the rest of the (rather lengthy) film shows us this often moody 8-year-old’s courageous journey to find and assert her identity. Though her immediate family had teasingly dubbed her Cocó and her mother often asserts, “There’s no girls’ stuff and boys’ stuff”, they are in denial. It’s only Ane’s aunt Lourdes (Ane Gabarain), the eccentric beekeeper, and her neighbor’s daughter, who embrace her for who she is. Lourdes encourages her to come up with a new name. Lucía, she is Lucía. Now it is up to her family and the gossipy villagers to accept her…or not.

At the 2023 Berlinale nine-year-old Sofía Otero won the Silver Bear for Best Leading Performance, the youngest actor to ever win this award. (Pat Frickey)

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