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‹ Flicks with The Film Snob


October 5, 2022
Flicks with The Film Snob
Flicks with The Film Snob

The true story of one of the women in Kosovo whose husbands went missing in the war, who decides to step outside the role conservative society expects of her so that she can support herself and her family.

For those who survive a war, the trauma never completely goes away. Hive, the debut feature of Kosovan writer and director Blerta Basholli, is set in a village in Kosovo in 2006, seven years after the end of the war with Serbia. Many of the women in the village are still waiting to learn the fate of their missing husbands. Serbian paramilitaries and regular troops murdered thousands of civilians in a campaign of terror during that war.

The main character in Hive is based on a real person, Fahrije Hoti and is played by a marvelous actress named Yllka Gashi. After much effort and struggle, Fahrije has realized that she can’t support her two kids or her disabled father-in-law with her absent husband’s failing honey business. We see her diligently tending the hives and extracting the honey, then straining and bottling it, but the volume is too small to bring in enough money. At local gatherings of the women whose men are missing, Fahrije proposes that they band together to make and sell ajvar, a popular condiment made from red peppers and eggplant. Anticipating the pressure from their conservative families, most of the women don’t want to take this chance, and only one of them agrees to work with Fahrije.

The older men of the village, patriarchal Muslims, hate when women act independently. Moreover, they assume all the women are widows and believe that it’s unseemly for widows to even appear in public. When Fahrije gets a driver’s license and starts driving a car in town, delivering jars of ajvar to the market, someone throws a rock through one of her car windows. As time goes on, the men continue to harass her with petty acts of vandalism and aggression. When other women eventually decide to take part in the business, the hostility escalates.
Basholli doesn’t shrink from revealing how the older traditional ways of rural Kosovo act as a chain around the necks of the women, even when the desperation of trying to make a living in this postwar environment justifies their enterprise. It’s just an unfortunate fact about this society, which the film shows us without even really commenting on it. Against this discouraging background we also get to witness the good things that happen when women work together—Basholli depicts the quiet joyfulness of self-sufficient women acting as a community.

As counterpoint to the main story about forming a business is the story of Fahrije’s daily struggle with grief, still unsure about the fate of her husband, and the tension this causes in the family. Her father-in-law is bitter about losing his son, and gets angry at Fahrije for stirring up controversy in the village. When Fahrije tries to sell her husband’s bench saw to help fund the business, her teenage daughter takes it as an insult to her father, whom she of course wants to believe is still alive. All of these are symptoms of unspoken grief, which will endure even if there’s resolution.

A few weeks ago on this show I reviewed Quo Vadis, Aida? another film about the Balkan wars which, like this one, is directed by a woman. The impact of war crimes and mass murder is a lasting one, as we can see even 23 years after the end of the fighting in the former Yugoslavia. Basholli’s style in Hive is not heightened or melodramatic, but sober, gritty and matter-of-fact. Yllka Gashi plays the lead role with admirable seriousness and restraint. Hive is a finely modulated work of grief, and courage.

ajvar,   business,   Kosovo,   missing,   War,   Women,  


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