THE FORGIVENESS OF BLOOD (Joshua Marston, 2012)
Lincoln Plaza Cinema, 1886 Broadway between 62nd & 63rd Sts., 212-757-2280
Landmark Sunshine Cinema, 143 East Houston St. between First & Second Aves., 212-330-8182
Opens Friday, February 24
In 2004, American writer-director Joshua Marston dramatized the plight of an impoverished young Colombian woman who becomes a drug mule in the gripping Maria Full of Grace. He has now turned his attention on another amazing international story, family blood feuds in northern Albania, in the riveting The Forgiveness of Blood. Tristan Halilaj stars as Nik, a teenager with dreams of opening his own internet café. But when a land dispute results in the death of a villager, Nik’s father (Refet Abazi) goes into hiding to avoid facing the Kanun, a fifteenth-century code of law that would give the family of the dead man the right to take the life of a male member of Nik’s clan. While his father is on the lam, Nik must stay inside his house in a forced isolation that could continue for years; if he steps outside, he is likely to be shot and killed. Meanwhile, Nik’s younger sister, Rudina (Sindi Laçej), a dedicated student who hopes to go to university, must take over her father’s business, leaving school to sell bread from a small, ramshackle cart pulled by their faithful old horse, Klinsmann. As the family crisis deepens, Nik considers taking matters into his own hands, with potentially devastating consequences. Marston thoroughly researched the remarkable story, spending time in Albania meeting with families in the midst of real blood feuds, attending a national conference of blood-feud mediators, and teaming up with Albanian native Andamion Murataj to write the script, which won the Silver Bear for Best Screenplay at the Berlin Film Festival. Marston does an excellent job balancing the centuries-old code of law with the rise of modern technology in Albania, not overstating the fascinating contradiction or making any ethnocentric judgments; Nik and his friends post things on Facebook from their handheld devices, and Nik and Rudina’s mother (Ilire Vinca Çelaj) receives occasional text messages from her husband while he is away. Marston imbues the film with a further believability by hiring many untrained actors, including Halilaj and Laçej, who handle their roles admirably. Featuring a beautiful score by Leonardo Heiblum and Jacobo Lieberman, The Forgiveness of Blood is a tense, unforgettable film bristling with powerful emotion, with well-drawn characters and a tense, unpredictable narrative. Don’t miss it.