No wonder that this assured and haunting debut from writer/director Blerta Basholli, an award winner at Sundance, is Kosovo’s official entry for the Oscars’ international feature category. Hive is Kosovo’s eighth Oscar entry but the country has yet to secure a nomination. This powerful, important film is more than deserving. Albanian actress Yllka Gashi portrays the real life figure of Fahrije Hoti who struggles to keep her family afloat after the disappearance of her husband along with all the men in her village after a massacre during the 1990s war in Kosovo.
Fahrije still conducts grim searches whenever bodies are exhumed hoping, despite the odds, that her husband will not turn up among the dead. She has a young son and daughter to support and an aging, disabled father-in-law to care for so Fahrije tries to earn a living selling honey from her husband’s hives at a local market. The bee stings she endures are little match for the grief and loneliness that she keeps buried. She bands with other village women and summons the fortitude to learn to drive in order to become more employable in the city, enduring disapproval and violence from the patriarchal society that believes women should stay home despite economic hardship.
The collective of women, featuring naturalistic performances and a gritty realism, support and advise one another despite these formidable obstacles. They eventually join Fahrije in making ajvar, a local staple made from ground red peppers, which they sell in a supermarket in the city.
Like two other memorable foreign films this year, Identifying Features from Mexico and A Perfect Candidate from Saudi Arabia, Hive conveys through rich details and confident storytelling the brutal day to day lives of women in other parts of the world. The film is anchored by Gashi’s quietly commanding performance as a resilient woman who wants only to survive with dignity. In the end, this honors the memory of her husband far more than suffering in silence.