Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Genre: Drama, Foreign
Run Time: 1 hour 49 minutes, Not Rated
Starring: Tristan Halilaj, Sindi Lacej
Directed by Joshua Marston (Maria Full of Grace)
The Forgiveness of Blood drops us directly into a domestic dispute, as two families try to cope with a feud that has torn them apart. Michigan, you may or may not know, hosts one of the largest Albanian-American populations in the US. This film is a modern-day story that takes place overseas, but its relevance echoes throughout our country as an example of how the past can affect the future.
Nik and Rudina are high school children living in Albania, and they seem modern and normal. Nik has dreams of opening an internet café one day, and the children are shown uploading silly photos to Facebook and playing Xbox. Their father drives his horse-drawn cart into town each day to deliver bread for profit. He has always taken a short cut through the lands of his neighbor. The neighbor however, doesn’t like that the father is cutting across their ancestral land, and continues to put up a road block, forcing the father to have to drive the long way home, several miles around the block in order to reach his home.
What sounds like a miniscule squabble escalates quickly, and a man is killed. The police are involved, as they would be in America, but in this film, there is a law that is even more supreme. This community follows the rule of the Kanun, a set of traditional Albanian laws. The Kanun dictates blood for blood, and because the neighboring family has lost someone, a life is owed. As the father goes into hiding, Nik and Rudina and the rest of their family are forced into isolation - prisoners in their own home – because to step foot outside of their home would be seen as disrespectful.
Because of their father, Nik and Rudina are forced to quit school and give up on their dreams. They are told it is only temporary, until the grieving family accepts some kind of peace. But they have heard of similar situations where families have been sequestered for years. The sins of their father may determine their own fate.
The Forgiveness of Blood gives us an inside look into this exotic culture, and is almost too focused, by design. We never get a glimpse of a bigger picture, as we are isolated right along with the family. It is a slow-moving film that tests our patience, but director Joshua Marston deliberately moves at this pace in order to portray how life is standing still for Nik and Rudina.
All of this of course, is a metaphor and an example of the cyclic nature of war and hatred. Here is a young, innocent generation of children who are forced to give up their lives for the mistakes made by past generations. Forced to survive, and torn between duty to self and to family, these children are bred into a life in which they seemingly have no choice but to submit. The older generation doesn’t understand the dilemma, but the burden thrust on youth is sometimes too much to bear. The Forgiveness of Blood makes no statement really, other than to show us how history can be set up to repeat itself.
There is enough interesting material here to pull you through the calculated, crawling pace. It is hard to imagine that a culture still relies heavily on such an old, outdated way of life. That is, until you realize that all of humanity looks to the past to inform its future.
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