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SUNDANCE 2021 World Cinema Dramatic Competition

Blerta Basholli • Director of Hive

“Kosovo is changing, but much more needs to be done to improve the status of women everywhere”

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- Kosovar director talked to us to unpick her recent Sundance-winning feature debut

Blerta Basholli • Director of Hive
(© Artan Korenica)

We chatted with young Kosovar director Blerta Basholli, who has taken the arthouse scene by storm by winning three awards at Sundance for her debut feature, Hive [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Blerta Basholli
film profile
]
(see the news).

Cineuropa: It is easy to see what inspired you to make this film. How did you work on adapting the real-life story?
Blerta Basholli: I had to go back and forth, talking with Fahrije Hoti [whom the feature is based on], exploring how it would feel to be in her place. I had to dig deep into my feelings and my experiences that could bring me closer to her, and at the same time, I tried to put myself in the shoes of the international audience, who need to understand and feel without having too much explained to them.

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Yllka Gashi is excellent as Fahrije. How did you pick her, and did you connect her with the real Fahrije to work on the character?
I worked with Yllka Gashi on a short-film project called Lena and Me, which was my second-year film at the New York University, and I really loved working with her. She is a well-known actress in Kosovo, but also a very good person to work with. That same year, I first heard about Fahrije's story on TV and immediately told Yllka, so we went together to meet her in person.

It simply had to be Yllka. She was involved with the project from the very beginning, and she lived with the character the same way I did. We went back to Fahrije once again to observe all the women and just get a feeling for this community.

It was surprising to see the issue that men in Kosovo had with women working and driving cars. I suppose things are changing in this regard; how did you position yourself as a director when tackling this aspect of life in (rural) Kosovo?
To me it was surprising, too, of course. Hospitality is our biggest asset, and for those who know Kosovo before the war, we know that solidarity is a great value upheld by this place as well. People left the country to search for a better life in the West, but they were always sending money back, not only to close family members, but also to many people who needed it. This is how we survived the occupation, since many people were fired from their jobs. And to my mind, a woman with two little kids, who has to work in order to provide for them, should only get support from her community. So yes, I was surprised and disappointed. She got a driving licence, started to go to the city to work, sat down for a coffee, and she was called names – they broke her jars and all of that.

I was born and raised in Prishtina, where of course it's not like that, and Krushë e Madhe is changing as well, especially because of Fahrije. But I still think there is much more to be done to improve women's status in Kosovo, in Hollywood and everywhere in the world. Things are changing for the better, of course.

This is the first-ever Kosovar-Swiss co-production; how did you find the partners in Switzerland?
Our producer Yll Uka, with his company Ikone Studio, had previously worked with Britta Rindelaub, of Alva Film. Usually, Albanians from Switzerland get funds in Kosovo and shoot their films in Kosovo. But the funds never go the other way around. The first time we tried, we were refused, but we tried again, and luckily we got it, and the Swiss TV channel RTS came on board as well.

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