Perseverance in the face of uncertainty and repression is at the heart of writer/director Blerta Basholli‘s feature debut, Hive, which illustrates the devastating real-life impact of the Kosovo War through the story of a determined woman named Fahrije (Yllka Gashi). Left in the painful limbo of not knowing whether her long-missing husband is dead or alive, Fahrije must defy norms and expectations to protect her family, proving herself a true heroine in the process.
Inspired by a true story, the film follows Fahrije as she struggles to provide for her two children and wheelchair-bound father-in-law, Haxhi (Çun Lajçi), while they hope against hope that their husband/father/son will miraculously return home, despite his disappearance during the 1999 massacre in their village, Krusha. Fahrije tends her husband’s beehives with care and sells the honey they produce, but it’s not enough. So, along with many of the other women in Krusha, she starts a business selling homemade ajvar (red pepper sauce). To succeed, she must take initiative, learn to drive, and negotiate with merchants — none of which is considered appropriate female behavior by the more traditional Krushans.
Fahrije is assaulted, taunted, and called “whore” by both fellow villagers and her own family members. And yet she persists, as so many women do, because she must. Stoic and capable, she takes her fate in her own hands and helps herself because she knows no one else is going to do it. In the process, she provides a powerful example of standing up against the social norms and expectations that can hold us prisoner, afraid to try something new or different.
Basholli elicits a remarkable performance from her star. Gashi’s Fahrije is simultaneously strong and vulnerable, hesitant and determined. She understands the power of the traditions the other villagers cling to — and even respects some of the customs that lead others to unjustly condemn what she’s doing — but she won’t let them define her. As she struggles to find a way forward amid the terrifying likelihood that her husband is never going to come back, she reveals a vast inner strength. It’s not hard to see why this film was chosen to be Kosovo’s official entry for the Best International Film category in the 2022 Oscar race. — Betsy Bozdech
Team #MOTW’s comments:
Pam Grady: The women of Krusha, a small village in Kosovo, are caught in a disastrous position: Their husbands are missing, presumed dead, after a 1999 massacre during their country’s civil war, leaving their families without their breadwinners in a patriarchal society where it is considered indecent for a woman to work or even drive. For Fahrije, barely eking subsistence for herself, her two children, and her elderly father-in-law, from honey from her husband’s distressed hives, the situation is unacceptable. Ignoring the abuse thrown at her, she works and learns to drive – and organizes Krusha’s women into a collective that makes ajvar, a pepper sauce that is a regional specialty. Spinning drama from the real life story of Fahrije Hoti, first-time feature writer-director Blerta Basholli emphasizes the perseverance and grit of a strong woman who puts her grief and misgivings aside to provide not just for her own family but for her entire community. As a drama, Hive is riveting and complex, a snapshot of the devastation wrought by war, a harrowing observation of a deeply misogynistic society, and a gripping character portrait.
Nell Minow: When so much is lost, not just a husband but the ability to trust what you think you know about the world, tragedy can be transformative. Hive is about the literal beehives and also about the hive-like communities that can constrict but can also sustain us. The intimate, documentary-like tone makes it easy to overlook the expert framing and editing that let the story unfold so organically.
Sherin Nicole At the core of Hjve is a poignant metaphor: In a community that values the work of men over the wellbeing of women, a woman starts a roasted red pepper business after her bees stop producing honey. She leaves behind the ostensible sweetness of conformity to embrace the spice of self-determination. It is not easy, nor simple. This film, which retells a true story, is the same. Led by Yllka Gashi as Fahrije, written and directed by Blerta Basholli, Hjve unfolds as a kind of modern folklore. Sentimentality is traded for the undistorted reflection of a culture in a certain time and place, when a woman becomes the life-sized hero who ushers a community towards change.
Leslie Combemale It’s amazing how well Hive balances tone. As dark as much of the subject matter is, the tenacity and determination of lead character Fahrije as she problem solves, even as she processes her grief and anger, is what keeps the story going forward and the audience engaged. I saw the film at Sundance. I was so inspired and impressed with the story of the real-life woman on which Hive is based that I tracked down and ordered some of the ajvar made by the women in her village. It was worth having it shipped across the world. Never get between a woman and her dream.
Jennifer Merin Be prepared to care. Blerta Bashollo’s script and direction convey the heart of the harrowing story, while Yllka Gashi’s nuanced performance as Fahrije captures the quiet but warrior-like determination of a woman who will not give in and will not give up. In Hive, women push through heartache to hope. Read full review
Loren King 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. Read full review.
Sandie Angulo Chen: Writer-director Blerta Bashollo’s drama Hive is an inspiring (if occasionally heartbreaking) drama based on the true story of Fahrije (Yllka Gashi), a widow with two children who tries to band the women of her small patriarchal village in Kosovo to make the pepper-based condiment ajvar and sell it at a supermarket. This is met with unabashed hostility by the men of the village, and it’s horrifying to watch as Fahrije and her fellow widows (all of whom lost their husband to the Kosovo War in 1999) deal with all the visceral anger and toxic masculinity. Gashi is remarkable as the serious and undaunted Fahrije, and it’s clear why Kosovo selected the film as its foreign language nominee for the Academy Awards.
Cate Marquis Writer/director Blerta Bashollo’s moving drama Hive is based on a true story, about one of the many women left in limbo when their husbands disappeared during war in Kosovo. While Fahrije (Yllka Gashi) continues her endless search for her missing husband, as mass graves or buried clothing are found periodically by aid workers, she also struggles to support her family and tries to help others women in her small village. The beehives her husband used to tend are not as productive now in the devastated landscape, and sales of honey bring a meager income for her, two children and her wheelchair-bound father-in-law. As long as the death of her husband is not confirmed, she and the other widows face harsh restrictions in the male-dominated traditional culture of her village, including vehement opposition to learning to drive or having a job. Yet Fahrije decides to starting a home-based business, making a popular local condiment, giving her and the other widows hope. Hive is a touching, inspiring drama about the power of sisterhood, and also Kosovo’s official Oscar entry.
Director: Blerta Basholli
Release Date: November 5. 2021
Running Time: 84 minutes
Language: Albanian with Engliosh subtitles
Screenwriter: Blerta Basholli
Distribution Company: Zeitgeist/Kino
AWFJ Movie of the Week Panel Members: Sandie Angulo Chen, Betsy Bozdech, Leslie Combemale, Marilyn Ferdinand, Pam Grady, Loren King, Cate Marquis, Jennifer Merin, Nell Minow, Sherin Nicole, Liz Whittemore, Susan Wloszczyna
Edited by Jennifer Merin