DRAMA; 1hr 24min (Albanian with subtitles)
STARRING: Yllka Gashi, Çun Lajçi
If Fahrije (Gashi) takes little joy from life, it’s because life has done her few favours. Her husband is missing and feared dead in the 1998 Kosovo War, leaving her to soldier on at home in her own quiet style, diligently caring for her son, daughter and wheelchair-bound father-in-law Haxhi (Lajçi). This last task is no cakewalk, Haxhi being a chauvinist who insists on Fahrije “[knowing] your place in this family” without batting a fault-finding eye. Also, her village is a hotbed of nasty male gossip, much of it aimed at her independent outlook.
The men with whom she butts heads are bigots and bullies but since Fahrije can’t afford to care when she can barely afford to survive, she goes her own way in defiance of the boys’ club, sitting for her driver’s licence — the nerve! — and brokering a scheme to supply a supermarket with jars of homemade eggplant and red pepper relish (aka ajvar, and you’re going to want a taste; the family beehive plays a peripheral and metaphoric part but the relish is the business). All things being equal, Fahrije and her strong-willed women helpers would have an instant hit on their hands. Instead, their work is sabotaged by guess who, and every step forward is a struggle.
As Fahrije, Gashi (who could be Sandra Bullock’s younger sister if Sandra Bullock were in fact Albanian) is never deterred. Her quiet resolve is a lesson in strength, especially considering its basis in a true story. Writer-director Blerta Basholli’s feature-film debut gives its unassuming warrior the respect she so richly deserves. Its attention to deep-seated moments takes you to the heart of courage.