September 11, 2011


From the director of the equally confronting Maria Full of Grace comes this exploration into blood feuds that still hold sway over families in modern Albania. 

Young Nik is a boy typical of his age - charting the rocky path through puberty, ticking off time at school, trying to talk to the girl he likes, texting, football... all that. His younger sister Rudina is like the Lisa Simpson of the family - smart, motivated and enjoying school and learning. They both help their mother take care of the two youngest. Their father is a bread delivery man (with horse and cart) who has a few choice words with one of the locals: he's used to cutting across their land (land that used to be owned by dad's grandad) but the new owners are blocking it off. One night the words go further and, whether by accident or planning; in self defence or aggressive escalation, the landowner is killed and Nik's father and uncle are on the lam. But that's the least of their worries - the two men have now kicked off a blood feud between the two families. Nik is confined to the house, Rudina has to drop-out of school to make the bread deliveries and they are all under the constant threat of being killed.

Basically, it's a totally alien situation to me and my experiences with the world. And that's kind of why I watch these films - to expand my own view of the world, to experience (in a small way) a totally different life to my own. The conflict between these two families obviously has deep roots and the concept of one family owing another a blood debt is a bizarre concept to me, especially in our digital/information age. This, essentially, takes authority away from the police and puts in the hands of village elders who sit around discussing obscure rules and laws as the family suffers - Rudina having to support the family and Nik becoming increasingly withdrawn as his imprisonment in his own home drives him stir-crazy. These old ways are in direct opposition to the modern world - the old men are quite content to take their time to "do it right" while Nik wants the matter settled now, so he can get on with his life.

Director Joshua Marston (a Californian native) manages to not feel like an outsider looking in and keeps the slow burn narrative going. Everyone has something to lose here, but mainly Nik and Rudina. I couldn't help but feel angry at their father - a man who must have known what the consequences of his actions would be but who is just too pigheaded to do differently. Frustrating and alien I cannot say The Forgiveness of Blood will be up there as a favourite of mine from the Festival but it was compelling nonetheless.

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