Wednesday, April 11th, 2012


It may be the present day in Albania where even the
rural teenagers text each other on cellphones every day, but some of the
customs that still dictate how families must conduct themselves date back centuries.  The older generation accepts this willingly but
it’s tougher on young people who are full of life and energy and who do not
want the past to ruin their futures.
This story is about one such family headed up by Mark
who does a daily bread round in his dilapidated horse-drawn covered
cart.  One day as he takes his usual short
cut, one his family has done for generations, he discovers that Sokol his
hot-headed neighbor has barred the way and now demands that he never cross his
land again.  Later that night Mark and
his brother return to have it out with Sokol, and a fight ensues and Sokol ends up
being killed.  Even though it is an act
of self-defense, Mark feels certain that he will not get a fair hearing in the
town as Sokol’s cousin is a local policeman, so he and his brother go into
Now there is an Albanian code named Kanun that
dictates that a member of the family guilty of murder must himself be jailed or
killed.  Mark’s brother is caught and
jailed, but as Mark is still free, this means that members of Sokol’s family
can kill his entire family if they set one foot outside their house at any time.  It is however a patriarchal culture where
women are very much second class and don’t count, which for once is a blessing
as unlike all the males in the family, they are in no danger at all.
Besides the mother, the family consists of four
children, Rudina a teenage girl who comes into her own after she is forced to
leave school, and take over her father’s bread round; a much younger girl and
boy, the latter of which must miss school to remain safe; and then there is the
oldest son 16 year old Nik who bitterly resents being trapped in the house all
day and unable to hang out with his mates and court his potential new
The older male relatives of the family led by Mark’s
father meet often to thrash out how and when they can send a mediator to
Sokol’s family to bring an end to the feud, but tradition demands that the
family must be able to get satisfaction for their loss before even this can
This tale of retribution is a remarkable reminder of
how in cultures such as this, clinging to the past for dealing with daily rural
life sits so uneasy with contemporary morality. 
That a father can accept and insist his family must face indefinite
imprisonment in their own home without question because he was ‘defending their
honor’, is a hard one to swallow.  And
definitely far too big a demand for young Nik to be able to accept, no matter
how much he loves his family.
This refreshing wee film with its eye opening tale was
filmed in Albania using non-profesional actors which gave such an overwhelming
sense of reality to the telling of this story. Co-written and directed by the American filmmaker James Marston, who also made the excellent ‘Maria Full Of
, about the reality of a woman forced to be a drug mule to survive in
another very backward culture : that one he shot in Spanish, whilst this one he
shot in Albanian.  Impressive!
Its one of those quiet understated movies that tells
an interesting story really well but for some reason another slips under most
people’s radar, and yet it deserves a bigger audience as it really is very
Not that it will make you want to dash off to Albania  any time in the very near
future ……! 


Posted by queerguru  at  22:23




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