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Storyline (warning: spoilers)
A Kosovo war widow fights her patriarchal village for an independent life in this Sundance prize winner. The story takes place in Krusha, a pretty hillside town that was the site of a horrendous massacre in 1999.It’s clear from the start that this will be an uphill struggle, when Fahrije’s wheelchair-bound father-in-law baulks at her learning to drive and selling homemade hot pepper sauce in a big-city supermarket. “You have to know your place in the family.” She counters, “I can’t rely on you, father.” The other war widows who meet at a local support group are deathly afraid of “gossip” and are no more encouraging.
We meet Fahrije sneaking into a medical tent, where she searches body bags for the decomposed remains of her husband Agim. The anxiety of not knowing if he’s dead or alive is a torture that afflicts many women in the town. It also reinforces society’s taboo about trying to move on. A few telling scenes, like trying to sell Agim’s table saw for some much-needed cash, underscore the inertia of the place, and make it clear that Fahrije is doing something out of the ordinary when she decides she’ll learn to drive — even though the instructor is a man. Behind the wheel of a beaten-up car on loan from the women’s collective, she flashes a rare smile of triumph.
Her idea is to set up a working group based out of her house to stew, mince, and bottle hot peppers. Apart from a refreshingly outspoken older woman, Naza, who ingeniously has her back with a supermarket manager, the other women are hesitant. The men lounging in a café break a car window and call her names. Her teenage daughter and her younger son are against it, Grandpa, too. But Fahrije plows on, knowing the beehives built long ago by her missing husband can’t feed the family, and she herself can no longer bear being stung by bees.