'Hive' review: Tired of waiting, a woman takes fate into her own hands

There's no sentimentality in director Bierta Basholli's stark tale, just cold, hard drama.

Tom Long
Special to The Detroit News

In a small town in Kosovo, women are waiting for their husbands to return home from the war.

They’ve been waiting for seven years. Their husbands are surely dead, likely buried in mass graves. But since no one’s identified their bodies, the women aren’t technically widows yet. They’re in a nether world, waiting for something that’s never going to happen.

Yllka Gashi in "Hive."

Fahrije (Ylka Gashi) is one of those women. She lives with her daughter and son and her husband’s wheelchair-bound father. They barely scrape by selling the honey Fahrije harvests from a hive in their yard.

She’s tired of waiting. As the film opens, Fahrije is sifting through body bags, hoping to find her dead husband. As it progresses she takes steps to improve her family’s life, despite the scorn of the men in her town.

First she gets a driver’s license, then a car. She travels to a city and convinces a supermarket manager to sell a hot pepper sauce she makes. Then she turns her home into a small factory, filling jars with the red sauce.

The locals are aghast. She should be waiting for her husband to come home, not building a new life. Men taunt her and worse. Her fellow non-widows are reluctant to join her in her new business, afraid of being thought scandalous.

Fahrije persists. Her daughter turns against her, her father-in-law is angry, her business is vandalized. And still she persists.

Director Bierta Basholli is telling a true story here — there really is a Fahrije and a red pepper sauce — but she avoids any sentimentality or romance. While building her business Fahrije is also bathing her father-in-law, fixing a broken pipe and getting stung by bees. 

Gashi’s sturdy, no-nonsense portrayal of a sturdy, no-nonsense woman doesn’t traffic in cheap inspiration and neither does Basholli’s film. Instead it serves as an indictment of absurd cultural restraints and traditions. And a reminder that the tragedies of war extend beyond the battlefield.

Tom Long is a longtime contributor to The Detroit News. 

'Hive'

GRADE: B+

Not rated

Running time: 84 minutes

At The Detroit Film Theatre