VOD film review: Hive (Zgjoi)
Sweet but stinging8
Anton Bitel | On 18, Apr 2022
Director: Blerta Basholli
Cast: Yllka Gashi, Çun Lajçi, Kumrije Hoxha, Kaona Sylejmani, Mal Noah Safqiu
Writer/director Blerta Basholli’s feature debut Hive (Zgjoi) begins with a diptych of scenes. In the first, Fahrije (Yllke Gashi) searches body bags in a makeshift UN camp. In the second, as she removes sweet honey from a beehive, she gets stung.
What connects these two scenes – besides the matching white of the UN hazmat suits and the beekeeping protective suit, and the haunted presence of Fahrije – is an absence. For it is seven years since the mass deportations and massacres of March, 1999 at the village of Krusha e Madhe during the Kosovo War – and Fahrije’s husband Agim has been missing ever since. The body she was vainly seeking at the UN camp was his, as was the apiary business that she now maintains, stings and all.
In this respect, Fahrije is like many of the women in Krusha: effectively (if uncertainly) widowed, held back from making ends meet by an ingrained patriarchy (even if the fathers are largely gone), and caught between preserving her husband’s memory and moving on to a more tenable life.
Every hive needs its queen, and when the enterprising Fahrije spots a business opportunity not just for herself, her invalid father-in-law Haxhi (Çun Lajçi) and her children Zana and Edon (Kaona Sylejmani, Mal Noah Safqiu), but also for many other local women who have lost their husbands and their livelihoods, she seizes it.
There are many obstacles to her success. In a community where normally men are the breadwinners and women are expected merely to keep house, Fahrije must contend with deep-seated misogynies both external (from the local men) and internalised (from her family members and indeed from some of the other women). She must also negotiate her own refusal to accept that Agim is gone and her hope that he will one day return – an entirely understandable commitment to her past that hampers her ability to build the foundations for a new future. Yet she is determined, in the face of widespread opposition, to carve out a better life and to bring a new sense of solidarity, industry, purpose to the village’s oppressed womenfolk.
Modelled on real, ongoing history – and told in a style that is, apart from the odd, trauma-tinged underwater dream sequence, starkly naturalist – Basholli’s film shows a community that has become defined by an unresolved sense of loss as it slowly finds its way towards a reconstruction that is quietly revolutionary and liberating.
“We will fix it together now,” says Haxhi, fighting away his tears and opting to repair the damage of a house – and also of a nation – rather than let the rot set in. This willingness to adapt and to unify, led by Fahrije’s example, offers hope for change, but also for continuity and an honouring of the past, however stinging.
Where to watch online in the UK:
This review was originally published during the 2022 Glasgow Film Festival