Friday, March 9, 2012


The Forgiveness of Blood (Falja e Gjakut)

The Forgiveness of Blood What would you do if you have to choose between your freedom and your own flesh of blood? That is the agonizing dilemma a flimsy teenager must deal with in director Joshua Marston's gripping drama "The Forgiveness of Blood" (Falja e Gjakut | Albania/USA 2011 | in Albanian | 109 min.). The film provides us a rare opportunity to observe the clash between the new generation and traditional customs in Albania.

After the communism collapsed twenty years ago, the rule of law in Albania, one of Europe's poorest countries, rolls back to the age-old traditional oral law called Kanun. Even it is already in the 21st century and teenagers go to school with their cellular phones in hands, many rural communities in Albania are still governed by Kanun when people try to resolve conflicts.

Rudina (Sindi Lacej) and his brother Nik (Tristan Halilaj) are typical teenagers who enjoy going to school and hanging out with their friends. However, when the feud between his family and their neighbor gets escalated, his father goes in hiding to escape the vengeance. That leaves the rest of the family falling in an extreme hardship.

Rudina has to quit school and picks up family's bread delivery business. Nik, as the male member of the family, is literally under house arrest based on a traditional custom called Besa, part of the Kanun. If Nik steps out of the house, he can be killed by the other family.

Nik misses school, his girlfriend, and his normal life. Scene by scene, Nik's agony and desperation gradually build up. He is suffocated by the confinement. In order to regain his freedom, his only option is to break the tie with his family.


This is director Joshua Marston's second feature film after his terrific debut "Maria Full of Grace." Once again, he skillfully creates memorable characters that are convincing and compelling. It's even more remarkable for him to direct a script written in Albanian, as well as work actors who speak Albanian.

It's fascinating to see how the story unfolds in Nik's community where the traditional custom is the rule of law, which is nowhere close to a modern legal system.

However, people from newer generation, like Nik, don't seem to follow that old path and honor that age-old oral law any much longer. And Nik is willing to pay a hefty price for that.

"The Forgiveness of Blood," a Sundance Selects release, opens on Friday, March 9, 2012 at Bay Area theaters.

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