Saturday, March 10, 2012

"The Forgiveness of Blood" examines "family values" in Albania


One of the aspects of the battles of the “culture wars” in the area of “family values” has to do with the idea that in most cultures, until recently in the West, “family” imposed obligations on other family members beyond their own choice.  True, spouses had to be faithful. But the kids, even as adults, were accountable for their fathers and for siblings.  Families were all in it “together”.  That seems to be what Santorum wants.

But we all know that this runs away in tribal cultures, into blood feuds. Such is the case in the film by Joshua Marston, “The Forgiveness of Blood”, from Fandango and Portobello Pictures, distributed by Sundance Selects (from the 2011 festival). It played before a substantial crowd at the late Saturday afternoon show at Landmark E Street.

The film takes place in rural Albania, and deals with old traditions of “kanun” and “besa” which are invoked by families even without the involvement of police.  Nik (Tristan Halilaj) is a likeable teen, slender and trying to beef up with weights, and intending to start an Internet business.  At home are a younger sister and Dren, much younger brother.  His father gets involved in an old land dispute involving access for easement, and comes to the aid of Nik’s uncle, unintentionally (probably) killing another man.  In the US, this would be viewed as manslaughter.  The grieved family imposes kanun, threatening to kill all the males in the family. With "kanun", the males of a family stay out of sight to avoid targeting by the aggrieved family, except when on a kind of military-like pass, "besa".  Nik is grounded.  The sister has to give up school and run the bread cart for the family.  Nik tries to make the best of things for a while, even trying to build a gym on the roof, enclosed by bricks.  Eventually, he has to deal with whether to turn to the police to have his own freedom.  There is a confrontation scene where he and his sister talk to the father about the need for the father to go to jail to pay for his own crime, and the father is offended that his kids won’t sacrifice more for him or for others.  Finally, Nik has to make one more critical decision about his own future and his loyalty to his family.  Is this “Santorum’s world”?

Nik is really quite charismatic, but the movie could have done without the scene where he points a defensive rifle at his brother in jest.

Nik also stays wired, by cell phone and Internet, while serving the "in home detention" for his father, and this figures into the resolution of his problems.

The film could well be compared to Iran's "A Separation" (Jan. 26, 2012 here).
The official Sundance site is here.

I see also from a Google search that the film has been picked up by IFC.  
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Today’s “short film” is a 4 minute commercial by Cartier jewelry, and it shows a cheetah jumping on a piper club that flies all over Paris. The cat starts out in Russia and China first.  

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