Hive (2021)


    War in the Kosovo region caused a societal and personal rift in the lives of many families, driving them apart, never to see their loved ones or their homes ever again. Blerta Basholli’s confident first feature shows us that, although conflicts end, patriarchal norms, and tradition endure, delivering the ultimate sting. An injury delivered by the hands of your own hive always hurts more, leaving you questioning the very reason for carrying on, when the sweetness of life is all but gone. The film is based on a true story of how, despite political disputes, women from the village of Kruša joined forces in order to survive and make it possible for their kids to have a better future than their own.

    The story follows the resilient Fahrije Hoti (Yllka Gashi), who struggles to keep food on the table for her two kids and sick father-in-law. They’re all waiting for news to arrive about her war-veteran husband Agim and put their seven years of anxious worry to rest. Conflicts in the region have left many families without their providers, as most of the men joined the army, leaving the women to rely on themselves. But once the opportunity to get a driver’s license presents itself, the women are hesitant because of the pressure from older men, who consider it a grave transgression. But Fahrije figures that when the tradition is against you, you should use the tradition to your advantage, so she turns to ajvar, one of the most beloved traditional condiments from the region. Fahrije, with her good-humored friend Naza (Kumrije Hoxha), starts a collective with the intention of producing ajvar on a mass scale, but once their place gets broken into and demolished by the other villagers, they realise that production and market forces are the least of their concerns.

     Even nature itself seems to be malign and ungiving in Kruša, seven years after the war. There are no fish in the river and the honey the bees produce has lost its sweetness. The juxtaposition of the people in protective suits on a body-recovery mission with the beekeeping suit Fahrije is wearing, speaks volumes. She has to remain calm and detached in the face of all obstacles, but no matter how hard she tries, not only will she end up stung, she will have to endure it, and repeat the experience, leaving her emotionally drained. Not knowing whether her husband is alive leaves her and her family in a state of constant uncertainty because none of them can move on. They’re unable to see the future, but also unable to properly deal with the past. So they choose not to talk about it, performing some sort of wishful thinking. This idea is encapsulated by Fahrije’s father-in-law, Haxhi (Çun Lajçi), who becomes obsessively fixated on pointing out how the frame of his son’s picture, which he had just fixed, looks  great, as if it was never broken to begin with. Almost as if nothing ever happened.

    Once you see the fearful, yet harsh and judgmental looks on the faces of the older men, as Fahrije is gripping the wheel of her car, you can feel the uneasiness that stems from fearing your neighbor. In that sense, Hive is successful in delivering some strong gut punches, remaining focused on its main objective: women’s rights and emancipation.