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'Bee Movie' director to host screening at Insect Fear Film Festival


Bee Movie
Click photo to enlarge
Photo courtesy Paramount
A free screening of “Bee Movie,” hosted by its director, Simon J. Smith, will begin at 7:30 p.m. Festivities begin at 6 p.m.

Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — It’s insect fear from the insect’s perspective this year at the Insect Fear Film Festival at the University of Illinois, with a free screening of “Bee Movie,” hosted by its director, Simon J. Smith.

The festival will commemorate its 25th year with many other insect-related activities, including a screening of the HBO documentary, “Inside the Hive: The Making of ‘Bee Movie,’ ” and a viewing of “Antz,” which Smith also contributed to as head of layout.

Entomology professor and department head May Berenbaum founded the festival in 1984. The festival normally celebrates movies that exploit the human fear of insects. This time, the audience gets a peek at what our most domesticated insects think of us.

“This is what insects fear about humans,” Berenbaum said. “Here the bees in the movie are quite agitated about their exploitation at the hands of humans.”

Last November Berenbaum rented a theater and took the entire entomology department to see “Bee Movie,” an experience that led her to invite Smith to be a part of this year’s festival.

And while some have complained that “Bee Movie” isn’t entomologically correct, Berenbaum has no problem with the way the critters are depicted. Most people know that insects have six legs instead of four, she said, and that – unlike the male dominated hive in “Bee Movie” – in actuality male drones don’t do much of anything except wait for the opportunity to mate with a virgin queen.

“They’re not making a documentary here,” Berenbaum said. “The point is it’s supposed to be funny.”

Bee Movie still
Click photo to enlarge
Photo courtesy Paramount
It’s insect fear from the insect’s perspective this year at the Insect Fear Film Festival, with the feature films "Bee Movie," above, and "Antz."

She noted that Homer Simpson doesn’t have the right number of fingers, either, and that mice don’t usually win battles of wit with cats, as in the Tom and Jerry cartoons.

The great thing about many animated insect films is that they invert our normal sense of reality, she said. “And at least conceptually the movie was right on target in saying that bees provide exceptionally useful pollination services.”

“We see ‘Bee Movie,’ and its predecessor, ‘Antz,’ as a celebration of not just insect biology but the ability to draw parallels between insect biology and human biology,” she said. “It’s a venerable tradition, dating back even before Aesop’s famous take on the ant and the grasshopper.”

Doors will open at 6 p.m. on Saturday (Feb. 23) at the Foellinger Auditorium, 709 S. Mathews Ave., Urbana. Early activities include an insect petting zoo and honey tasting. Courtesy of the U. of I. Beckman Institute’s Imaging Technology Center, Bugscope will provide a peek through a scanning electron microscope for an “up close and personal look at various bits and pieces of bees that are not usually visible to the naked eye,” Berenbaum said. Face painting will be available, and entomology graduate students will do their best to demonstrate the “waggle dance” that foraging Western honey bees perform upon their return to the hive with pollen or nectar to inform their nestmates as to where they’ve been.

Opening remarks will begin at 7 p.m., and winners of the 2008 Insect Fear Film Festival art contest will be announced. A trailer for “Bee Movie” will begin at 7:30 p.m., followed at 7:35 p.m. with a screening of the movie. At 9 p.m. Smith will answer questions, followed by a screening of the HBO documentary at 10 p.m. and “Antz” at 10:30 p.m.

For more information about the Insect Fear Film Festival, please go to:

Editor’s note: To reach May Berenbaum, call 217-333-7784; e-mail: