- Hive – Film Review
by Brian Merriman
Director – Blerta Basholli
Writer – Blerta Basholli
Stars – Yllka Gashi, Çun Lajçi, Aurita Agushi
Duration 84 minutes
Irish Film Institute from March 18th 2022
Hive, a co-operative production from Albania, Kosovo and Switzerland, is a powerful piece that reminds us of the legacy of war and the ongoing struggle for gender equality, even in Europe. Based on a true story of the women who are left to cope, following the genocide of their husbands, sons and breadwinners in post-war Kosovo. Many bodies remain uncounted for, adding the exhausting possibility/ fantasy that they may return home. They do not – the gradual acceptance of that underscores this dramatic story.
Fahrije’s (in a gripping performance by Yllka Gashi) husband has been missing since the war in Kosovo. 240 villagers were massacred – the biggest during the Kosovan conflict. Their survivors struggle not only with loss but also with maintaining a traditional patriarchal society without the men. The ongoing complicity of many women with maintaining traditional values is an additional restriction. A generation of men have been lost, but their unofficial ‘widows’ remain married, dependent and observed. The monthly dwindling thirty euros payment from the NGO no longer suffices.
Fahrije is a woman who deals with the reality of the absence of a breadwinner and the needs of her surviving society. In a controlled, intense performance of sheer determination, she does what she must to realise the need to achieve economic independence. For that, she is sexualised and shunned as a ‘whore’.
Despite this ostracization, Fahrije’s quiet determination is ever-present on screen. She respects and cares for her two children and her father-in-law Haxhi (a beautifully studied performance by Cun Lajci) who counsels ‘whatever you do affects the entire family’. Her husband’s presence is still felt in his beehives which continue to supply a small income, his saw table and in one surviving framed photograph.
The Womens’ NGO is offered a car and Fahrije is the only woman willing to sit the driving licence exam. This is the flashpoint to unleash toxic masculinity, violence, gossip and injury, as the struggle to maintain the old ways gives way to the new pressures of survival in an emerging but struggling country. The key to her liberation and the economic prosperity of her oppressed ‘widowed’ friends is to establish a group to provide the local supermarket with homemade jars of avjar (local red pepper relish) to be sold.
This is no saccharin ‘we are all in this together’ treatment by Writer/Director Blerta Basholli. She carefully and powerfully unpacks a screenplay of challenge and change, beautifully emoted by a strong, largely female cast in supporting roles.
There are lots of shards of glass in the imagery. They represent many things, but especially the glass ceiling that can only be broken by the vision, determination and intellectual skill of Fahrije. Hive is timely and well worth seeing in the times we are living through.