Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Blerta Basholi
Stars: Yllka Gashi, Cun Lajci.
Something of a companion piece to the harrowing Quo Vadis, Aida? Hive is another story to emerge from the horrors of the Bosnian conflict of the 1990s. Based on real events and set in the aftermath of the conflict, Hive explores the cost of the war from a different perspective. A Kosovan/Macedonian and Swiss co-production, Hive is an award winning film that is Kosovo’s official entry for the 2022 Oscars.
This is more of a character study as it focuses on Fahrije (Yllka Gashi, who vaguely resembles Sandra Bullock), a widow who has been waiting for seven years to learn the fate of her husband who went missing during the war. Like so many other women in the area she believes that the government has not been doing enough to locate the remains of their menfolk. Fahrije lives on the family farm in the small village of Krush e Medhe, where she shares the house with her young son and daughter, who is on the cusp of adolescence, and her invalid father in law Haxhiu (Cun Lajci). She raises bees and sells the honey to the local community. She has assumed this role after the disappearance of her husband, but unlike him she is often stung by the insects.
But now times are tight and the monthly stipend provided by the government has grown scarce. Together with several other local women Fahrije forms a collective to make ajvar (a roast capsicum sauce made from red peppers) and sell them through the local supermarket. At first her family are not particularly supportive of her endeavours, but they soon become involved in helping to prepare the ajvar. But this is still a heavily patriarchal society and the men of the village don’t take kindly to the women exercising their independence and react with hostility and try to thwart their efforts.
Hive is a slow burn and sparse drama that explores themes of grief, the emotional cost of war, cultural differences, gender roles, toxic misogyny, discrimination, and has an almost bittersweet tone. The film is based on a true story, although writer/director Blerta Basholi has taken some liberties for dramatic effect. This is her feature film debut and she handles the material with subtlety and compassion as she ekes out details about Fahrije’s life and her daily struggles to cope with the hand that fate has dealt her. The film has been beautifully shot by cinematographer Alex Bloom (Summer Is Around), who evokes a strong sense of place. Hive provides some insights into a place and a way of life about which we know little.
The film is anchored by Gashi’s strong performance. She brings a superbly stoic quality to her performance.
Hive will strike a chord with many, but it is also a film that will not have broad appeal.
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