Monday, February 21, 2011
Albania Blood Movie, "The Forgiveness of Blood" Wins Silver Bear at Berlinale
Joshua Marston’s drama about two young people caught in a blood feud in Albania’s rural north has won the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival.
"The Forgiveness of Blood," a drama written by Albanian-born, New York-based scriptwriter Andamion Murataj, tells the story of a family trapped in a cycle of vengeance.
Like in his celebrated 2004 movie Maria Full of Grace, Marston used both unknown actors and professionals for the Forgiveness of Blood.
The two main characters are played by 18-year-old Tristian Halilaj and 15-year-old Sindi Lacej, who had no previous acting experience.
The lead actress in Maria Full of Grace, Catalina Sandino Moreno, who had only a few acting classes to her name before the film, was nominated for an Academy Award.
The film is a familiar tale of territorial rights and family honor but it is told well and the film features appealingly natural performances by non-professionals. It could reach beyond festivals in certain territories, particularly those that have populations with a Balkan heritage.
In the rural north of the formerly communist nation, bread is still delivered by horse and cart but every teenager has a mobile phone. The police have modern vehicles and weapons but elders dish out justice according to the 15th-century Balkan code known as the Kanun.
A conflict over the right of way on one family's land leads to anger and violence. When a man dies, there is no way to avoid a blood feud. Marston and Albania-born screenwriter Andamion Murataj have fashioned an absorbing tale about the impact of such old-fashioned rules, especially on the younger generation.
The director has a good eye and British cinematographer Rob Hardy ("Boy A," "Red Riding") captures shrewdly the many contrasts of ancient and modern in tools, buildings and terrain.
Refet Abazi plays Mark, a delivery man whose daily route with horse and cart has taken him across trails used since his grandfather owned much of the land. But a temperamental man named Sokol (Veton Osmani) now owns the land and he places rocks on the ground to block Mark's way.
When Sokol insults him and his family in the presence of his teenaged daughter Rudina (Sindi Lacej), Mark returns with his brother Zef (Luan Jaha) to set things right. The encounter occurs offscreen but soon Zokol is dead, Zev is in prison, and Mark is in hiding.
A blood feud is declared that means Mark's teenaged son Nik (Tristan Halilaj) and his little brother cannot leave the house in fear of retribution. Nik, who has ambitions of opening an Internet cafe once he graduates and has a school sweetheart, Bardha (Zana Hasaj), chafes under incarceration. However, Rudina thrives in her new duties driving the horse and cart to deliver bread and other goods.
Marston sets a level of increased tension as Sokol's family make further threats and attempt to intimidate Rudina while Nik risks his life to sneak out at night to see his girlfriend. Loyalties become strained as the youngsters begin to challenge what they see as the stubborn futility of the old ways.
The contrasts between unspoiled countryside and urban development and the clash between rural intransigence and youthful impatience add depth to an accomplished and suspenseful drama.
Posted by Conference Organizer at 4:21 PM