The Forgiveness of Blood
Mary Dieng

Directed By: Joshua Marston

Starring: Tristan Halilaj, Sindi Lacej, Refet Abazi, and Ilire Vinca Celaj

There are some films that make you surf the Internet and do a little research upon viewing them.   You feel compelled to find out whether the subject matter is real or whether the filmmakers were pulling your leg.  Joshua Marston's The Forgiveness of Blood is that kind of film and I found myself googling Albania and the Kanun as soon as the credits started rolling.  But let's take a step back.

Nik (Tristan Halilaj) and Rudina (Sindi Lacej) are two teens growing up in a rural town in Albania. Nik hangs out with his friends and playfully flirts with a pretty classmate. Rudina is a straight A student, bright and hardworking.  Their father Mark (Rebet Abazi) runs the family bread delivery business. All is fairly well until Mark's feud with a neighbor turns deadly. Mark's family previously owned a road that allowed him to take a shortcut while delivering bread. They allowed others to use the road as well for convenience. At some point, a court ruled that the road belonged to another family. Sokol and his kin were not inclined to let others use the road and they blocked it with rocks and trees to prevent trespassers.

Mark finds Sokol's behavior outrageous and he rebelliously continues to use the road. During one particularly heated exchange, Sokol insults Mark in front of Rudina. Later Mark goes back with his brother to confront Sokol and Sokol ends up dead.  Immediately, Mark's family must go into hiding. Under the Kanun, Albanian common-law, by rights Mark's family must stay in the house out of respect for Sokol's family's grief. In addition, the Sokol family has the right to demand blood justice by killing Mark and/or one of his sons.

Nik and Rudina's young lives are changed forever. Nik and his younger brother are literally confined to their homes. Rudina must give up school and run the family's bread delivery business.  The film follows Nik's confinement and Rudina's necessary transition to adulthood.

The Forgiveness of Blood is an incredibly compelling story. The juxtaposition of smartphones, Facebook and computers with horse-driven bread delivery carriages and ancient laws that actually sanction blood feuds is quite jarring.  Moreover, you cannot help but be impacted by the unfairness of kids and teens being imprisoned for the alleged acts of a family member.  It is so far removed from what most would consider justice, particularly in modern times. But if the BBC is accurate, blood feuds still happen today, and old eye for an eye justice is not uncommon.

Joshua Marston (Maria Full of Grace) does it again. In The Forgiveness of Blood, he builds the tension and the suspense perfectly and takes viewers directly into the turmoil of blood feuds.   I recommend a little hard lemonade with your viewing.