“The Forgiveness of Blood” - Joshua Marston (3 of 8)
Guild Hall, East Hampton, Saturday, 5:15 p.m., Sag Harbor Cinema, Sunday, 9:15 p.m.
The contrasts of contemporary Albania, where horse-drawn carts share the road with modern vehicles and tech-savvy teenagers text love notes to their sweethearts even as society is still ruled by certain centuries-old codes, are evident from the first shots of Joshua Marston’s fascinating follow-up to his critically acclaimed 2004 film, “Maria Full of Grace.”
While the American director shot that one entirely in Spanish, “The Forgiveness of Blood,” filmed on location in a small Albanian town, was shot entirely in Albanian. That approach alone is almost reason enough to check out this film, one of five in contention for the festival’s Golden Starfish Award for best narrative feature.
The film centers around Nik, a teenager on the brink of first love who dreams of opening an Internet cafe, and his younger teenage sister, Rudina, a model student with a bright future ahead of her. But their family has been embroiled in a long-running land feud with a neighboring clan and their hopes are quashed when the feud finally turns bloody. With their father and uncle blamed for the murder of one of their neighbors, a 15th-century Balkan code known as the Kunan dictates that the men of the family, including Nik and his young brother, must remain in indefinite isolation in their house until the offended family agrees to engage a mediator. It could be months, it could be years, and Nik, poised at the precipice of adulthood, chafes against the strictures of a tradition he thinks is outdated. His sister, meanwhile, must drop out of school and take over her father’s job delivering bread by horse-drawn cart in order to support the family.
As in “Maria Full of Grace,” Mr. Marston somehow manages to tell the story in such a compelling and knowledgeable way that a viewer would swear he had grown up in Albania and was sharing an insider’s perspective with the rest of the world. A strong cast propels the story forward and the cinematography of Rob Hardy, while paying tribute to the beauty of the rural Albanian landscape, also imparts a coldness and loneliness that are appropriate, given the characters’ isolation in their community. C.K