Hive (2021)

Director: Blerta Basholli
Writer: Blerta Basholli
Cast: Yllka Gashi, Çun Lajçi, Aurita Agushi, Kumrije Hoxha, Adriana Matoshi, Molikë Maxhuni, Blerta Ismaili, Kaona Sylejmani, Mal Noah Safqiu, Xhejlane Terbunja
Seen on: 18.7.2022

Content Note: sexualized violence/attempted rape, (critical treatment of) misogyny

Fahrije (Yllka Gashi) shares the same fate as most of the women in her village in Kosovo: her husband went missing in the war, and he has yet to be found. Every now and then new remains are uncovered, and it is unclear what would be worse: finding traces of him, or continuing not to. But Fahrije doesn’t really have time to consider these questions. She has two children, Zana (Kaona Sylejmani) and Edon (Mal Noah Safqiu), and a disabled father-in-law, Haxhi (Çun Lajçi) to take care of. Their only source of income is the sale of honey, but the bees don’t give as much honey as they used to. So Fahrije decides to get a driver’s license with the help of the Women’s Association, even though she knows what this will mean for her reputation in the village. And that’s not enough: she also kickstarts a business for the women in the village to sell their home-made ajvar in the city. But the remaining men around her don’t make things easier.

Hive is based on a true story. It brings the lasting effects of the war in Kosovo very close, while also managing to be a feminist story full of hope. It’s an excellent film, especially given that it’s Basholli’s debut feature.

The film poster showing Fahrije (Yllka Gashi) wearing a beekeeper's hat.

I daresay that the Kosovo War is not something that most people in Western Europe think about anymore. And movies like Hive can bring the topic back into the consciousness, and give the conflict with the accompanying cruelties and crimes an emotional weight. Hive absolutely achieves that. The scenes were Fahrije has to deal with maybe discovering her missing husband are hard to watch indeed.

But most of the film is concerned with the way she manages her day to day apart from said disappearance. Having the responsibility for her family as the only person able to really work for a living, she nevertheless has to bow to her father-in-law’s decisions as he is the head of the family. And the intensely patriarchal society around her punishes her dearly for her attempts to get enough money to live off, even if that means breaking out of the women’s place.

Fahrije (Yllka Gashi) driving her car.

In the middle of all this hardness, Fahrije finds more or less reluctant allies in the women around her who have to deal with equally difficult circumstances. When they finally come together to make ajvar as a group, the strength, the sense of community and the warmth in it is just as palpable as the grief, and the austerity of their lives.

All of these things are reflected in Gashi’s performance. Her Fahrije is hard, she has to be. But there are also the moments where she is emotional and sometimes she even has fun. Throughout all, Gashi and Basholli remind us that Fahrije is a fighter. I’m sure that the real Fahrije, the one whose life this film is based on, is, too. And it is great to see that her fight was successful so far.

The women of the village collecting their jewelry with Fahrije (Yllka Gashi).

Summarizing: really good.

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