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20,000 Species of Bees 12A

Estibaliz Urresola Solaguren, Spain, 2023, 128m.

Estibaliz Urresola Solaguren’s delicate debut feature 20,000 Species of Bees – for which its young star Sofía Otero won the Silver Bear for Best Leading Performance at 2022’s Berlin Film Festival – is a tender, heartfelt drama about an eight-year-old’s indelible summer holiday of self-discovery.

Otero plays a trans girl, who rejects her given name Aitor, perplexed by the gender binaries that rule her world, where boys and girls are divided at playtime, and relatives chide her long hair. An inquisitive soul with a thirst for knowledge, she loves to learn new words and skills, and questions why she doesn’t feel certain of who she is when it seems so easy for her older siblings.

The Garden Cinema View:

20,000 Species of Bees is a sensitive and elegant exploration of a transgender child's grapple with gender dysphoria, her mother's depression, and societal expectations of who she should be. Only in her grandmother's and the bees' nonjudgmental companionship she finds peace.

Much like in Crialese's L'immensità, 20,000 Species of Bees showcases a mother who suppresses her artistic talents and has a troubled marriage - a plot thread that feels somewhat underdeveloped. Nevertheless, the film's strength lies in its ability to convey emotions without resorting to heavy-handed dialogue, making it a masterclass of show, don't tell.

Sofía Otero, Patricia López Arnaiz, Ane Gabarain, Itziar Lazkano

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