Conservationist Janice Overbeck returns to screen new film on plight of bumblebees

Janice Overbeck and her movie 'The Last Bumblebee'
Janice Overbeck and her movie ‘The Last Bumblebee’

Janice Overbeck is an accomplished Atlanta realtor, often quoted in major publications as an expert in Atlanta real estate; a passionate advocate for ending the plastic crisis and combating climate change; and she’s made two movies (with more on the way).

Overbeck has worn a lot of hats throughout her career, but she’ll be putting on a familiar one at 6:30 p.m. tonight in Smith Wilkes Hall, returning to Chautauqua for a screening of her film “The Last Bumblebee,” an 80-minute documentary about the critically endangered Franklin’s bumblebee.

The Franklin’s bumblebee lives in a very small area of land at the border of California and Oregon, and one hasn’t been in the wild since 2006. The film follows a group of 50 scientists, explorers and enthusiasts who trek to the Pacific Northwest to track down the elusive bee, which is at risk of becoming the first bee to be listed as extinct in North America.

“I was really interested in ‘The Last Bumblebee’ because I realized there was a major issue out there with pollinators and also our native bees, which includes bumblebees,” Overbeck said.

“The Last Bumblebee” is the second issue-based, solution-focused documentary film that Overbeck has produced; her first film, “Plastic Earth,” was released last year and was also screened at the Institution for the Chautauqua Climate Change Initiative. Overbeck said she felt compelled to make the film because she wanted to leave a better world for her four daughters, and she was worried that all the communication young people were receiving about the environment was wrapped in “doom and gloom.”

“I felt like my kids really need hope and inspiration … so I wanted to make a solution-based film, and it worked out great,” she said. “And then I kind of got bit by the bug and loved being a filmmaker.”

Overbeck said she was inspired to create “The Last Bumblebee” after a deep dive into pollinators in the United States. She came to learn that many people were aware of the threats that many bees across the country were facing, but tended to focus their attention on honeybees – who aren’t actually at risk of endangerment or extinction.

“All of the entomologists that I interviewed were like, ‘This is so sad because people actually care about this issue, and they want to make it better, and they’re making it worse,’ ” she said. “And so I wanted to make a film about it for that reason.”

Overbeck said there were no feature-length films about bumblebees, and she felt that the issue was important enough to warrant one finally being made. 

She hopes Chautauquans who watch the film will realize that there are things they can do to protect pollinators like bumblebees, even if it’s something as small as planting a native plant species in their front yard, or simply spreading the word about bumblebees to their friends and neighbors.

“(People) can individually do so many things … in their own yards, and help educate and provide this access to information,” she said. “We just need to get the message out to help spread the news to help the bees.”

Tags : documentaryenvironmentJanice OverbeckThe Last Bumblebee

The author Jeremy Kohler