The first Kosovan film to make the Academy Awards shortlist for Best International Feature Film, Blerta Basholli’s Hive is a uniquely poised dissection of a woman’s world—yet misses the emotionally nuanced punch it needs to deliver.
Set some time after the 1998-1999 Kosovo War, Fahrije (played by Yllka Gashi) is struggling to support her family, still unsure of the whereabouts of her husband. Through her local women’s group, she’s able to gain the funds and courage to start a small business— which is met with firm community disapproval. Fighting to navigate personal grief, domestic strain, and the effects of small-scale oppressive patriarchy, Fahrije learns to trust in the help of her fellow women.
An alternative BBC crime feel to its opening, Hive quickly commands the viewer’s attention with its craft. Honing in on the power of little dialogue, its immersive visuals effortlessly create an air of grounded transformation. As Fahrije is suspended between the pain of the past and the potential of the future, Hive’s screen becomes an ocean that swallows the inevitable nature of the present. Throughout these moments of drowning serenity and tension within the community, the narrative anchor comes back to beekeeping—the very pastime that opens Fahrije’s horizons.
Although it’s difficult to place when Hive is set, the weight of its cultural context is obvious. A patriarchal framework pulls the strings of the rural Kosovan town, culminating in Fahrije’s refuge at the women’s union. Wives who are able to drive are frowned upon, their cars smashed while onlookers avert their gaze. In its most surface-level sense, Hive depicts a woman’s world with brave brutality—even before considering the eastern history of the Kosovo war. Missing men are looked to as community heroes, while the actions of grieving women have a knock-on effect on the rest of their families.
Access, worth, and money are all key factors in what makes Hive drive forward. While cultural and personal parallels remain strong, the overall narrative often feels drawn out, with the sense of community fragile and hesitant. Despite the subject matter remaining vulnerable and compelling, there’s a continued lack of emotional connection—perhaps due to the personal character of Fahrije. As she learns to open up and accept help, there’s often a stilted disconnect between narrative and audience.
An ultimate question of who deserves what flows throughout Hive’s structure. There’s a hostility to the women’s own sense of entrepreneurship, while idle gossip strengthens old-world social norms. Perhaps it’s this sense of reframing outside of the Western world that obscures the answers, highlighting realism of basic necessity as feminist issues.
Like the queen bee, Fahrije creates a hesitant yet hopeful path to frame her future, her Hive having moments of visceral beauty while falling short in others.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: Blerta Basholli
STARS: Yllka Gashi, Çun Lajçi, Aurita Agushi
RUNTIME: 84 minutes