A land dispute turns into a blood feud in Joshua Marston's (Maria Full of Grace) The Forgiveness of Blood. Playing out somewhat like the Albanian version of Jeff Nichols' Shotgun Stories, the film focuses on the family of a man named Mark (Refet Abazi). At the fore of the film, we learn that Mark's grandfather used to own a piece of land that has fallen into the hands of another family in the town. Mark and his son Nik (Tristan Halilaj) experience a run-in with one of the children of the new landowner, an encounter that sets the tone for a later act of violence, placing Nik and his family under an indefinite term of house arrest.
Basically a cinematic piece on conflict resolution in Albanian society, The Forgiveness of Blood somehow never becomes overly didactic. Instead, we're drawn into an identifiable human dilemma: Nik's desire for freedom from his father's actions and their consequences. At the same time that Nik is struggling with his role in the dispute, his sister Rudina (Sindi Lacej) is forced to drop her studies and take up the family business, delivering bread and other goods via a horse-drawn cart.
It's fascinating to watch their differing reactions as the siblings are stifled under the constant threat of violent retribution. The parameters of their liberty may be restricted but Rudina's ingenuity and Nik's youthful defiance color the film with an unexpected optimism tempered with uneasy acceptance. And, yes, hand-held cinematography in art house films is SO prevalent that it may very well be reaching its breaking point (see this recent NY Times article for Manohla Dargis' take on the ubiquitous shooting strategy), but its use is entirely appropriate here, achieving both the standard aim of "reality" mixed with a tangible feeling of claustrophobia that works well with the subject matter of the film, transporting the viewer to the edge of their seat at multiple points in the story.
The Forgiveness of Blood will screen for the public at Cinemagic on Feb. 10th at 8:30pm and at the Lloyd Mall 5 on Feb. 12th at 5pm.
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