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Working Girls

Alexander Bloom/Sundance Institute

Hive (2021)

Based on a true story, “Hive” reveals how women are shunned by Kosovan society when they attempt to do virtually anything – work, drive, start a business etc. Some women’s lives are on hold as they endlessly await word on the fates of their men – husbands, fathers and sons – missing due to the war with Serbia and presumed lying dead in some undisclosed mass grave. Per end titles, about 1,600 people from Kosovo remain unaccounted for two decades postwar. Still, traditional values dictate that these women survive on the paltry 30 euros monthly handouts from the government, lest they bring shame on their families by trying to make ends meet when the soldiers are not officially dead.

Fahrije (Yllka Gashi) has the unenviable responsibility of beekeeping, raising two children, Zana (Kaona Sylejmani) and Edon (Mal Noah Safqiu), and washing disabled father-in-law, Haxhi (Çun Lajçi), and also taking him to the farmer’s market to sell honey. Through a local women’s organization, Fahrije acquires a driver’s license and a vehicle. She soon hatches an entrepreneurial plan involving all of her group members to produce homemade ajvar – a traditional red pepper relish – and sell it through a local supermarket. For some reason, this really threatens male pride. As gossip about her enterprise spreads, Fahrije endures threats, outright attacks and her petulant brats acting out.

First-time director Blerta Basholli is a graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, which has been known for nurturing foreign filmmakers who specialize in claptrap for First World consumption. Impressively, though, Ms. Basholli resists villainizing a particular ethnicity or religion as the culprit behind the toxic misogyny, a temptation lesser filmmakers – including some of her illustrious fellow Tisch alums – might succumb to. Because she doesn’t come with any discernable political agenda, the viewer is inclined to suspend any disbelief even as the harassment suffered by the women escalates.

Real-life footage in an epilogue tends to upstage the dramatization preceding it, but here it instead provides reassurance that the women have not only triumphed over adversity, but their business has grown and their community has thrived. It’s truly inspirational to see what can be achieved through the force of indefatigable collective will.


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