Stories of defiance in the face of repression and wartime barbarism are always timely, but this true-life Kosovan drama resonates with particular ferocity in the present moment. It depicts one woman’s attempts to pick up the pieces years after the Serbian army has slaughtered dozens of the men, women and children in her small community – including, potentially, her husband.
Only ‘potentially’, because years later no bodies have been found and the trail of evidence has run cold. This positions Hive, a hard-hitting and emotional debut from Kosovan writer-director Blerta Basholli, in an unusual limbo for that woman, Fahrije (Yllka Gashi), and us in the audience: a space between grief and hope. Does she keep up appearances in her judgy, patriarchal village and wait for firm evidence of her husband’s death, or strike out to forge a future for herself?
Shrugging aside sexism that even tips into violence, as well as the reservations of her fellow widows and the disquiet of her father-in-law and teenage daughter, Fahrije takes the latter course to set up a small business making ajvar, a Balkan pepper dip, for a local supermarket.
The comeuppance one or two of the menfolk get is definitely mood-enhancing
Basholli shows the toll that constantly pushing back while trying to move forward takes on even this dogged woman and her lead wears it on her face. Fahrije is a woman who hasn’t smiled in years and in her minimalist performance, Gashi gives a sense of a woman who is saving her energy for yet another bigger battle around the corner.
Hive is never quite a feelgood film – the deep trauma that underpins it militates against any jaunty Calendar Girls vibes – but there is a tangible sense of joy as Fahrije begins to lead her fellow, long-suffering widows to a place of healing and the promise of better times ahead. And the comeuppance one or two of the menfolk get is definitely mood-enhancing.
In UK cinemas Mar 18.