Hive

Hive is the story of Fahrije, a Kosovan woman who tries to support herself by making ajvar relish. In her community, for a woman to even drive a car is considered scandalous, so it’s an uphill struggle.

Based on a true events, Fahrije’s story was big news in Kosovo. The trouble was Fahrije’s husband was disappeared in the Kosovan war in the 90s. So she was in this state of being effectively widowed without ever having the confirmation of her husband’s death. She was in this between state of being both married and widowed. As a married woman, it was her place to keep the home and not work. As a widow, it was her place to live with and look after her in-laws. Neither involves providing for yourself or your family by working outside the home.

In the film you see Fahrije is devoted to her in-laws. She lives with her father-in-law who she affords great respect. But he is wheelchair-bound, and can only make a little money by selling the honey from the family beehives. You’d think practicality would immediately triumph, given how useful it would be if she could drive him about, and produce more money for the family. But old ways die hard.

There is a constant attempt to intimidate Fahrije, a collective sense of disapproval and looming consequences. When events do happen, there is no one villain with a face, just handfuls of men growling daggers and bricks getting chucked through her windows. At first even the women are against her striking out, they tell her that people will say she’s driving hither and thither coz she’s seeing men, that her reputation will be destroyed and that of her family. They are frightened to help her in case the same is said about them.

But as time goes on and God doesn’t strike her dead for selling jars of ajvar relish, the women come to see that she can be a provider for herself and her family. Even her father-in-law, who discouraged her but never outright forbade her, eventually ends up helping. Together that they realise they are capable of more than they ever thought.

Given the grim context and the Balkan gift for brevity of speech, I wondered if this film might be hard going. But it actually is a film of resolution, strength, and overcoming adversity. It even has moments of pure joy and warmth. Great film.