Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Forgiveness of Blood...intriguing tale about blood feuds in Albania!

Although it is doubtful that – “The Forgiveness of Blood” (a film by Joshua Marston) – will ever be a commercial success in the mainstream, the compelling tale about “blood feuds” in modern-day Albania may find a comfortable niche at boutique revival movie houses around the country.

The well-produced independent feature (with subtitles) – not only garnered interest at Telluride & the Toronto International Film Festival – but also managed to snap up a coveted prize at the Berlin Film Festival for best screenplay.

Joshua Marston’s 2nd feature ("Maria Full of Grace" was his first venture into the realms of filmdom) focuses on an Albanian family caught up in a blood feud.

Nik (the male lead in the flick) finds his world turned upside-down when his father becomes embroiled in a land dispute which leaves a fellow villager murdered.

According to centuries-old Albanian law, the dead man’s family is entitled to take the life of a male member of Nik’s family as retribution.

The major strength of the film is in Marston’s keen ability to contrast - and make sense of - the out-dated antiquated traditions which adversely (unjustly?) affect the lives of the teenagers who struggle against the oppression they're faced with daily through no fault or deed of their own.

As the director sees it, the film tells a universal story about growing up, framed within the specific context of a society caught in the midst of change - a society simultaneously connected to the 21st Century through cell phones and the Internet - yet also imprisoned by the past due to tradition that carries the full weight and force of binding law.

For Marston, the experience was an enlightening thought-provoking one.

“The research is often the most fascinating element of the whole film for me. That’s when everything is new, everything is interesting. It’s like an enormous puzzle and I’m just accumulating hundreds and hundreds of pieces.”

When Marston read about the tradition of blood feuds, initially, it was not the feuds themselves that frustrated - but rather - the fact that they continued in the present day in Albania that intrigued him.

Understandably, the well-crafted script that sprang from that perspective, ended up translating well to film.

“Forgiveness of Blood” moves along at a fast entertaining pace without much excess baggage bogging it down.

Unfortunately, poor production values were a bit distracting at times for me (the cinematography was a bit muddy on occasion).

The two young leads (Tristan Halilaj and Sindi Lacej) turned in remarkably believable performances in spite of the fact they were both non-actors (plucked from the local scene) appearing for the first time on the silver screen.


The film was financed by Fandango Portobello and the Artists Public Domain (with generous grants from Cinereach, Goteborg Film Festival Film Fund, and the New York State Council on the Arts).

Catch "Forgiveness of Blood" if you can!

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