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hive

★★★★★

starring: Yllka Gashi, Kaona Sylejmani, Adriana Matoshi, and Blerta Ismaili

REVIEWER: lyall carter

Fahrije's husband has been missing since the war in Kosovo. She sets up her own small business to provide for her kids, but as she fights against a patriarchal society that does not support her, she faces a crucial decision.

With Ukraine on the brink of invasion, there doesn’t seem a more appropriate film to speak to our times and serve as a warning of the horrific consequences of war. Hive is a film of thundering power telling the true story of one woman's fight for survival and justice in the midst of suffering the very real terrors of war.

Fahrije, like many of the other women in her closely-knit Kosovo town, lives in a kind of stasis awaiting the return of her husband who disappeared during the war with Serbia and Montenegro many years earlier. When unearthed mass graves revive hope of some kind of closure, albeit in a most dreadful way, so does the possibility of perhaps moving on. For, in this rural patriarchal society, women mustn’t work, should observe traditional roles that keep them housebound, and are therefore reduced to living off hand-outs while honouring the absent menfolk – and natural breadwinners.

But the beehives established by Fahrije’s husband aren’t producing enough honey to support her two children and disabled father-in-law, all of whom are dismayed by her steely entrepreneurial spirit when she sets about commercialising homemade ajvar, a popular roasted red pepper condiment. After initial reservations, Fahrije galvanises other women to follow in her stead and join her “hive”. 

Hive, the first film to win three main awards at Sundance, is a film, given the current state of the Ukrainian conflict, that is a haunting and timely reminder of the consequences of war. We see this played out in the story of Fahrije as she fights to find her husband and fights the system to survive.

But Hive is not a film where this misogyny is relegated to supporting characters to play out on the sidelines. Its front and center, in your face, and its confronting as Fahrije faces all kinds of horrors from being called a whore for getting her driver’s license, to attempted sexual assault, to her business being vandalised. 

However through it all Hive is a story of triumphing overwhelming odds and a tribute to the unique and indomitable fighting spirit of women everywhere.

Hive is a film of thundering power telling the true story of one woman's fight for survival and justice in the midst of suffering the very real terrors of war.

★★★★