Thursday, August 04, 2011

The Forgiveness of Blood

Glibly speaking, The Forgiveness of Blood is about home detention Albanian style. Nik's dad and uncle are in a long running feud with Sokol over a road that runs across land that was once in the family but since the end of communism is now owned by Sokol. In a society of gun and knife wielding, honour obsessed, hot heads such disputes can go from jokes and jibes at the pubs to dead bodies before you can say "Enver Halil Hoxha".

Once Sokol is dead, uncle Zif arrested by the police and dad has vanished, the real blood feud starts. The Sokol's extended family insist that teenage Nik and little brother Dren are valid targets and will be shot on sight if they leave the house. This means no more school for Nik and his brother and sisters. Older sister Rudina has to take over the family horse and cart bread delivery business, and a teacher comes back to give home tuition to the two primary school age kids. Nik's best friend from school visits and reminds him of a kid they used to know who had to stay inside for over 5 years until the feud his family was involved in was solved through mediation.

This concept of blood feud that everyone in the community including the school teachers take seriously is based on Albania's traditional law code called the Kanun (an oral tradition that was first written down in the 20th century). It is not part of Albanian law and was suppressed under communism but is being revived again in the north of the country. The Kanun is based around honour, respect, revenge and the family as a unit. As there is no central enforcement authority it can also be misused by large and powerful families to persecute smaller weaker ones. Luckily in the Kanun the family home is more or less sacrosanct (though theoretically so are women and children).

In a tradition where women and teenagers have no say in what happens and with their father gone, the decisions are in the hands of uncles and more distant male relatives who not living under the same curfew are happy to wait the feud out. By focusing on Nik and Rudina, otherwise normal cellphone wielding teenagers, the film shows how badly this tradition works in the 21st century and how both teenagers try to make the best of the situation. This film is a must see for those people in NZ who clamour for a system of justice that puts the victim's desire for revenge in the driving seat (and is an interesting look at life in a part of Europe few of us will ever go to).

Ian's rating 4/5

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