In Burt’s Buzz, director Jody Shapiro takes us into the reclusive backwoods world of beekeeper Shavitz, still committed to living off the land in Maine, as he has since the 1970s, in a renovated turkey coop with no running water. Shapiro explores Shavitz’s peculiar relationship with the company he co-founded with Roxanne Quimby. The birth of Burt’s Bees and its emergence as a lucrative brand may be the stuff of legend, but it’s also contentious: Shavitz sold his shares decades ago, reaping virtually nothing from the company’s financial success; yet he remains contracted to promote the brand, travelling the world making public appearances. Wise and wry, absent-minded and unflappable, Shavitz is a fascinating subject.
With a steadfast, subtle hand, Shapiro exposes the contrasts and ironies that pepper Shavitz’s life — including the collision between business and personal values — and delicately mines the humour and emotion of his story. The result is a thoughtfully layered portrait of this highly idiosyncratic pioneer, and a revealing study of what it means to be a living icon.