Some of the finest modern films to examine the human and moral crisis of war strip down the wild violence and grand explosive moments to allocate a quieter truth festering beneath the surface. Such was explored in the stirring drama about the Srebrenica massacre, Quo Vadis, Aida? by the Bosnian filmmaker Jasmila Žbanić and is further examined by Blerta Basholli in her brand new drama Hive set during the aftermath of the Kosovo War from 1998-1999.
Presented as one of many untold human stories about the tragic event, Hive follows the life of Fahrije, a real-life victim of war, played by Yllka Gashi, who lives with the fading hope of finding her missing husband who went missing during the war. Supporting her struggling family and the wider community, she decides to set up her own business with other local women, selling ajvar and honey as they strive for a better standard of living and continue their search for missing loved ones.
Without the influence of male figures of power bearing down on their business, the women initially thrive, only for the men of the village to condemn their efforts to empower themselves. Against the adversity of their local community, it is this central conflict that Basholli’s Hive intricately explores, condensing the war to a community conflict, ultimately illustrating how hope can thrive even in the most despairing situations.
Creating a hive mind of individuals each working to achieve a seemingly impossible, almost ethereal, goal of trying to find their missing family members that have been forgotten by their nation, Fahrije leads a defiant group as the queen bee, fighting for survival and a better everyday reality.
Their fight comes on two fronts too, attending political rallies to demand the government help find their family members, as well as battling against the pathetic patriarchal powers that try to keep them in a state of apathy. A mental, and often physical battle, this defiance becomes the core focus of the film as the women heroically fight everyday adversity with all the tools available to them.
Sharp and precise, it is the direction and script from filmmaker Blerta Basholli that is Hive’s greatest strength, keeping the film to a short runtime to contain the emotion and hurt of its leading characters in an urgent, compelling package. Charged with human emotion and sociological importance, Basholli’s precise and piercing exercise feels like a crucial piece of filmmaking.
Intense and focused, often specifically on the protagonist, actor Yllka Gashi well handles the weight of her emotionally-wrought role, bringing a quiet intensity that reveals itself in moments of tenderness between her and those who stand in the way of her efforts.
Much like Gashi’s Fahrije, the audience is left to tread water in a pool of uncertainty come the film’s conclusion, a feeling all too familiar to those who are still awaiting answers as to their missing loved ones in Kosovo. Blerta Basholli’s noble film gives an enduring voice to all those still seeking justice and punctuates a moment of great change for women’s rights across the country.
Hive – released in cinemas March 18th. Please see altitude.film for more information.