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Natural Awakenings Chicago

BURT’S BUZZ: The story of Burt Shavitz of Burt's Bees

Jun 05, 2014 08:00AM ● By Megy Karydes

BURT’S BUZZ is the story of Burt Shavitz’s life. Jody Shapiro is behind the lens as the film director. She gives us an intimate and rare look at Burt’s world after she follows him for a year and chronicles his life.

“I was fascinated by the idea of what it means to be a logo, an icon. Here we had a rare opportunity to see the man behind the mask,” says Shaprio. “As a person who wished to live off the grid and on his own terms, Burt must cope with the knowledge that millions around the world project their own thoughts, and perhaps even their own dreams, about who he must be. There are millions who believe that he is not a real person; instead a made up logo fronting a successful product. This, as I explored, created a sense of irony for Burt.”

Shavitz is the co-founder and namesake of leading natural health and beauty care brand: Burt’s Bees. A woodcut of his bearded image is at the center of the brand’s logo. The wax from his beehives, his yellow truck and his reverence for nature shaped what Burt’s Bees is today.

The film begins with Shavitz setting the stage with his declaration, as if he’s confessing or apologizing: “My life has been evolutionary, not revolutionary… Things just took one day at a time and everything worked out.”

True enough, he’s lived a fascinating and unique life but also one filled with contradictions. For a man who seems to eschew what corporations do and stand for, one who prefers to live off the land and off-the-grid, he’s fully aware that he’s part of a major corporation as the face of his namesake brand. Burt’s Bees was sold to and is currently owned by Clorox. Part of his job is to promote the brand at various events worldwide.

“And I learned along the way that it was not an irony that escaped him,” adds Shapiro. “For he knows that he is both real and made-up which is what makes his fascinating story so captivating on film. Fact blends with the image to create a larger truth.”

Exposing the collision between business and personal values, “Burt’s Buzz” is an interesting portrait of this highly idiosyncratic pioneer and a revealing study of what it means to be a living icon.

The documentary will be shown nationwide beginning June 6. In Chicago, Burt’s Buzz can be viewed at the Gene Siskel Film Center from June 6-12.