Director: Blerta Basholli

Cast: Yllka Gashi, Çun Lajçi, Kumrije Hoxha, Aurita Agushi, Adriana Matoshi, Molikë Maxhuni, Blerta Ismaili

Words – Rhiannon Topham.

At the heart of writer and director Blerta Basholli’s triple-Sundance-winning drama Hive is a message of hope in a time of tragedy and terror. Hope that resilience and strength against the odds will pay off. Hope for justice for past traumas, both individual and collective. Hope for a better future.

Based on the true story of Fahrije Hoti (played by Yllka Gashi), Hive is set in a patriarchal Kosovan village where many women (Fahrije included) are grieving for husbands who are still missing after the end of the war. Fahrije maintains her husband’s beehives but struggles to keep her household afloat on the modest income from selling honey at the local market.

She and other widows in the village band together for support, but there is frequent resistance to suggestions for advancing their positions and prospects. One idea is to obtain driving licences so they can access better employment opportunities, to which one woman says: “There is no way I will allow myself to become the gossip of other people.”
Within this is the crux of the issue the women face – a deeply entrenched misogyny that is frustratingly unforgiving, exposing the women to vitriolic condemnation and being labelled as ‘whores’ for something so harmless as learning to drive. Such social pressures and taboos are reproduced in the home as much as outside it, as Fahrije knows all too well when her own daughter brandishes her a ‘whore’ for simply trying to gain some sense of financial security.

Fahrije and her peers start a small business selling homemade ajvar, a red pepper condiment that is a staple of Balkan cuisine. The women painstakingly make every jar, which Fahrije loads into her car and takes to the supermarket where they have their own shelves. It’s a small glimmer of hope for people who have endured so many years of tension and grief. That is, until, someone – who, it doesn’t matter – breaks into their workshop and smashes most of the jars that were full and ready to sell. The ajvar paste, thick and red, is strewn across the floor like a sea of blood. It’s a shocking and bold sight, bravely evocative of the bloodshed at the centre of Hive’s domestic drama.

Basholli treats the subject matter with great empathy and care, allowing the immense sorrow that surrounds Fahrije and her friends the time and space it needs. But there are also moments of staunch humanity, especially in the strength the women find together and the solace they find from their friendship and new business venture. Knowing the real Fahrije Hoti is thriving makes the characters’ jubilant celebration of their success at the end of the film even more enjoyable.