CIFF Diary: Day 2, pt. 3 - Growing Up with Tradition in the Modern World

10/8 - The Forgiveness of Blood is the new feature from the director of 2004's Maria Full of Grace, Joshua Marston.  Marston's skill as a director has also been honed through various television projects, and in his latest film (which has finished screening at the CIFF), he achieves some beautiful moments of direction through a limited number of locations, allowing us access to the small town day-to-day of modern, rural Albania.  The landscape of the film is established gorgeously, and the carefully paced way in which we come to know the members of the family at the heart of the film's conflict is one of the most well executed aspects.  Nik and Rudina are the brother and sister central to the drama, who have their lives changed when their father and uncle kick up old land disputes with one of their neighbors, a bitter and armed rival.  When the rival neighbor is killed, the father, who we spend much of the opening of the film with, delivering bread on his daily route in a rickety, horse-drawn cart, is forced to adhere to Albanian law and tradition, which keeps him in hiding and his family from going out into the community.

Rudina - The Forgiveness of Blood
I particularly loved the performance of the young actress who played Rudina, as we see her transform  from a teenager who can't contain her excitement about what she learned in school that day, as she rambles home with her father in the old cart, to the driver of the cart, having to make deals with shopkeepers that force her into a new realm of adulthood in the absence of her father.  Her brother, Nik, who has just begun courting a young girl at school, is really at the center of the narrative, and the consequences of the violence in the film ultimately land most squarely on him.  When the film has to deal with Nik being sequestered in his own home, although we empathize with his youthful plight, the film falters a bit in its pacing, while still leaving some seemingly crucial aspects unexplained.

The Forgiveness of Blood
 The Forgiveness of Blood is a film that is perhaps difficult to access for those not a bit familiar with Albanian tradition and law.  One of the terms that is used quite extensively, but never fully explained, is the concept of a "Besa," which would help the family become free of their exile.  Although I am not quite sure what a "Besa" is exactly, there are a number of concepts in the film that communicate across cultures, particularly when it comes to the serious consequences of land disputes, which, in Forgiveness, seem ridiculously small.  For Nik and Rudina their youth is initially shown to us in a very modern, positive context, and then contrasted by the harsh realities of traditions that they must adhere to, yet cannot possibly understand.  In this way, this small film evokes not only the sadness of the conflict over the borders of Albania, but also Israel, Northern Ireland, and any country still experiencing a violent, seemingly implacable conflict.

Nik - The Forgiveness of Blood

Special thanks to Husni Ashiku, my Albanian screening partner on this one.  Thanks for a thoughtful day of movie-going, overall, but particularly for your insight on this film.  

Up Next:  Aki Kaurismaki's Le Havre

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