Last year, Hive became the first film to win all three main awards – the Grand Jury Prize, the Audience Award and the Directing Award – at the Sundance Film Festival. One can understand the appeal. This Kosovo-set drama is simultaneously a true story, a tale of widows, who, like their Trojan equivalents, are doomed to wait, and an old-fashioned triumph-over-adversity fable.
Blerta Basholli’s compelling debut feature concerns the steely, resourceful Fahrije (Yllka Gashi), a mother of two children and carer to her crotchety father-in-law (Çun Lajçi), who forbids her from selling her long-gone husband’s tools. As the film opens, her husband, an Albanian Kosovar, has been missing for some seven years.
She is one of many waiting wives in her village who ekes out a meagre living from beekeeping. Faced with uncertain pollen producers and possible destitution, Fahrjie learns how to drive and reaches out to other local women to form a collective – a matriarchal hive – that produces both honey and ajvar, a paste made from roasted red peppers, for a Pristina supermarket. It’s a slow, sometimes terrifying venture in a village where women are not permitted to walk into a cafe alone.
Fahrije is gritty and resolute enough to inspire the other women to join her, but there's a haunted – not to mention persecuted – quality to her
Her entrepreneurial spirit is met with no little horror from the local men, who hurl stones through her car window and make various efforts to sabotage her business. A local pepper seller takes her driving licence as an invitation for sex. Her own teenage daughter calls Fahrjie a whore. No wonder the heroine cries when the same adolescent begins to menstruate.
Basholli’s simple, elegantly structured script and Alex Bloom’s cinematography places Gashi’s carefully calibrated performance in almost every frame. Fahrije is gritty and resolute enough to inspire the other women to join her, but there’s a haunted – not to mention persecuted – quality to her. The feel-good finale is well-earned and the glimpse of the women on whom the film is based is, for once, not merely a watermark of authenticity, but a genuinely moving vista.