“The Forgiveness of Blood” – Review

Director: Joshua Marston
Writers: Joshua Marston & Andamion Murataj
Cast: Tristan Halilaj as Nik, Sindi Lacej as Rudina, Refet Abazi as Mark
Running time: 1 hour 49 minutes
In Albanian with English subtitles
IMDB page: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1787127/
Plot: Nik, a teenager in rural Albania, gets caught up in a “blood feud” between his family and a neighboring clan.

You think mafia families can hold a grudge?  They’ve got nothing on Albanians, apparently.  An ancient code called the Kanun regulates life for traditionalists, and it’s a tough piece of work.  When Nik’s father gets involved in a murder, it doesn’t matter if he did the killing, or even if his actions were in self-defense.  The Kanun demands that the entire family must suffer, trapped in their home, with their livelihood – and their lives – subject to the whims of the people they’ve supposedly wronged.  Joshua Marston, an American who also directed the Colombia-set Maria Full of Grace, once again mixes insightful cultural reportage with engaging fictional storytelling.

In some ways, Nik is a typical small-town teenager, attached to his home and family while desperately wanting to get out of Nowheresville.  The blood feud makes his isolation literal, and pushes him to actions that are incredibly stupid, yet completely understandable.

The real hero of the story is Nik’s sister, Rudina, who is allowed to continue their father’s bread-delivery business, and expands it into something more profitable.  She’s just as frustrated and fearless as her brother, but much less self-absorbed about it.  As the situation heats up, she’s the one who keeps her cool.  Most of the characters are sympathetic, and Nik is ultimately the one whose actions make the biggest difference. But Rudina represents the stubborn, youthful resourcefulness that could save a family.  And a country.

This might remind you of: The Oscar-winning Iranian film A Separation, which similarly explores a culture that most Americans have little knowledge of, with emotional realism instead of judgment.

Watch Gomorrah as well: Matteo Garrone’s Italian crime drama offers another searing look at how a country’s violent traditions can derail the dreams of its young people.

– Loey Lockerby


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