A Breakout at Sundance, Blerta Basholli’s ‘Hive’ Tells the Moving Story of a Mother’s Persistence

Blerta Basholli’s feature debut, Hive, tracks one mother’s determination to provide for her family after her husband’s disappearance in war-torn 1990s Kosovo. In the face of pervasive grief and a disapproving patriarchal community, she eventually starts a business selling homemade ajvar, a traditional Balkan red-bell-pepper spread, and convinces her fellow widow neighbors to join her venture.

Earlier this year, the Albanian-language drama became the first film in the history of the Sundance Film Festival to win all three main awards—the Grand Jury Prize, the Audience Award, and the Directing Award—in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition, and it’s Kosovo’s entry for this year’s international feature Oscar. 

Basholli first learned of Fahrije Hoti, the woman on whom Hive is based, through a Kosovo TV show in 2011. As a filmmaker whose work deals with social and gender issues in her homeland, she immediately felt compelled to meet Hoti and invited Yllka Gashi, an Albanian actor well-known in Kosovo whom she had worked with before, to come along.

Basholli planned to propose making a film about Hoti, and if she declined, “then I would just thank her for what she did and encourage her,” Basholli tells me via Zoom from Spain, where Hive recently screened at the Valladolid International Film Festival. “But she did not need my encouragement—I ended up being the encouraged one. She’s such a talented, proactive, and brave person. Her character inspired us both and stayed with us, even today.”

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