Burt’s Buzz Review

Posted 9 years ago by myetvmedia

Burt’s Buzz is a charming documentary about Burt Shavitz, the reclusive genius behind the highly popular beauty line known as Burt’s Bees.This film is intended for anyone who ever wondered if there really was a Burt behind the Bees. Directed by Torontonian Jody Shapiro (How To Start Your Own Country), Burt’s Buzz paints an touching, un-invasive portrait of the man who set out to make honey with his bees and ended up creating one of the world’s most well recognized all natural line of beauty products. The documentary made its World Premiere at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.

We start to understand a little about the eccentric man behind the brand through an expose of his travels in Asia and old photos from Burt’s days as a New York photographer. Burt’s Buzz is a vibrant exploration of the eccentric man behind the brand who insists on living off the land in the backwoods of Maine. It’s got it all: A stranger-than-fiction tale complete with a love story-gone cold, his rise to fame, then fall paints a portrait of one of the most fascinating leading men ever to come across the big screen. Shapiro has captured lightning in a bottle, yet most of the success of this documentary comes out of the sheer luck of capturing the essence of such a kooky-character. Being ‘in the right place at the right time’ as Shavitz would say when asked about his success.

The purpose of this documentary isn’t to showcase the creation of Burt’s Bees the brand, although the fascinating story of Burt and Roxanne Quimby, his business partner and former lover is part of it. This is a story about Burt, the man and reluctant icon. A man of ‘contrasts’, Burt lives simply off the land, yet has millions. He doesn’t believe in war, but shoots off guns in his backyard. He can afford to travel the world, but when his water heater breaks down he refuses to spend the $2000 to fix it, stating ‘We can’t afford the luxury’. He’s recognized internationally yet somehow doesn’t quite grasp his larger than life iconic status, a fact that makes Burt all the more enchanting and puzzling.

This documentary introduces us to the Burt Shavitz, a former photographer from New York who left his life for something more simple, including a life of raising bees and selling honey on the side of the road. I expected to watch a documentary comparing Burt the man to Burt the icon, yet I was pleasantly surprised to find that Shapiro wasn’t able to disconnect the two. “He’s everything you’d want him to be” Shapiro said during the Q & A after the TIFF13 premiere. “His resourcefulness comes out of choice, rather than necessity”.

Startlingly enough, it turns out that Burt never set out to create anything. “I’m an evolution, not a revolution” he powerfully states in one of the opening lines of the film. “ I never set out to make something this large. It just happened over time.” The documentary is a compelling examination of a reclusive man, living in the backwoods of Maine, a man with very simple needs. His story left a grip of nostalgia in my heart for cottage camping with my family and an artisan way of life.

Over the course of an hour an a half I felt as though I had been given a glimpse into a type of person that one rarely gets to encounter; that man who cares about the land and relationships and not money or fame. A humble heart with simple intentions. Burt’s Buzz was more than a documentary about a man, it was a compelling lesson into how fame doesn’t have to change anything if your convictions are strong enough.

Highly reccomended.

Lauren Schell

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