THE FORGIVENESS OF BLOOD - On DemandApril 19, 2012

IFC Films

On Demand Weekly provides new movie reviews of hot movies on demand from the POV of watching from the comfort of your home. Today’s review: THE FORGIVENESS OF BLOOD (IFC Films).

2 Teenagers Caught in an Ancient Blood Feud…
By Cynthia Kane


In THE FORGIVENESS OF BLOOD, we find ourselves in rural Albania, post Bosnian War/Kosovo conflict, in other words: now. Nik (Tristan Halilaj) is a teenager, the oldest son, popular and in love with a beautiful classmate. His sister, Rudina (Sindi Lacej) is the eldest daughter, a girl who loves school and learning, and dreams of a life outside the village. Their father, Mark (Refet Abazi) works hard, delivering by horse and wagon bread and whatever else he can provide the neighboring cluster of villages.


Then one day when he and Rudina are making the late afternoon rounds, he’s blocked from the through-road by an unruly neighbor from another clan. This man (Veton Osmani) who not only possesses lands Mark’s family once owned but humiliates him in front of Rudina – in a country where gender is still very much divided, this is unforgivable. When Mark and his brother, their uncle go back to confront the offending neighbor, violence breaks out and that man is killed. Rudina and Nik’s uncle is arrested and their father must go into hiding.


Worse still, the entire family must be sequestered as the old adage, “an eye for an eye” is utterly real in their world. Nik’s father, grandfather and other male members of the family know retribution is a fact. It’s an ancient law of blood feud. It’s derived from the Kanun, a traditional set of Albanian laws, conservative and ancient, still in effect, based on four pillars: honor, hospitality, conduct and clan loyalty.

It’s when you realize this is a film by an American filmmaker,

Joshua Marston, that you actually find yourself astonished.


His last film that hit big was MARIA FULL OF GRACE, some year back, which did incredibly well in festival circuits, was released theatrically via Fine Line and aired on HBO. He had a couple tries within the Hollywood scene that didn’t turn out and has directed a lot of good tv. And now, Marston takes us to another far away place: Albania.

How courageous and unique is this guy? Where does he get this chutzpah? I love that he can tell gripping stories from countries and cultures far from his own, and make them ring absolutely true. As a filmmaker he’s not only a talent, but a shapeshifter.


Here Marston chooses to work with non-professional actors and it pays off. The result is an extraordinarily, honest, almost documentary-like take on this family, their forced exclusion and the society they live in. Co-written by Albanian screenwriter Andamion Murataj we feel the unbearable claustrophobia this entire family must endure for the ‘sins of the father’. Marston provides us with the same deep unshakable tension that he did in MARIA FULL OF GRACE. Only here he’s a little older, a little more assured; the tension is palpable, nuanced and acute.

There are many questions though, unanswered. Is this religion a part of this cultural dictate? I know many, perhaps as many as 70% Albanians are Muslim, but there’s nothing within the story or characters actions that indicate either Christianity or Islam, and perhaps the Kanun goes further back than religion anyway. The contrast between the younger generation desperately wanting to be part of a bigger, more modern world – after all, these kids use their cell phones and text each other as in any other place in the world - yet the older generations and patriarchal mandates decide all.

One moment our two young protagonists are free and have hope for a future, then next their lives become a veritable prison. For young Nik, his own adolescent narcissistic need to revolt, separate, his young male hormones driving him crazy causes him to act foolishly and endanger everyone, until he inevitably yet innocently betrays his own. Rudina, in turn, with her mother takes over the responsibility for the family’s livelihood, ensuring they survive.

THE FORGIVENESS OF BLOOD won the award for Best Screenplay at both the Berlin and Chicago Film Festivals in 2011. While we don’t get detailed answers (not a cristicism per se as it makes us fill in those blanks for ourselves), and there’s not any certainty of forgiveness within this compelling story, it’s a film that deserves to be seen. Sadly with fewer arthouse venues across the U.S, that will be difficult to find on the big screen. Thankfully with the release via Sundance Selects and IFC Films, we are able to experience this on demand. It’s a film that will not only stay with you a long time after, but will make you wonder


where Joshua Martson will take us next.

demand it

- Cynthia Kane

Cynthia Kane reviews documentaries for On Demand Weekly. She is a writer and Sr Programming Manager for [ ITVS], overseeing the International Initiative for funding in their SF office. Prior she’s had many incarnations from actor to writer to producer. She co-created DOCday on Sundance Channel.


FORGIVENESS OF BLOOD (IFC Films) can be found under your cable system's On Demand section.



Read Other Reviews By Cynthia Kane:







Thomas Vinterberg's SUBMARINO DEMAND IT

Michelle Williams In MEEK'S CUTOFF DEMAND IT


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