In a small town in Kosovo, women wait for their husbands to return after the war.
They have been waiting for seven years. Their husbands are surely dead, probably buried in mass graves. But since no one has identified their bodies, the women are not yet technically widowed. They are in a lower world, waiting for something that will never happen.
Fahrije (Ylka Gashi) is one of those women. She lives with her daughter and son and her husband’s father in a wheelchair. They barely scratch when selling the honey collected by Fahrije from a beehive in their garden.
She’s tired of waiting. At the start of the film, Fahrije sifts through body bags, hoping to find her late husband. As this progresses, she takes steps to improve the lives of her family, despite the contempt of the men in her town.
She first obtains a driver’s license, then a car. She goes to a town and convinces a supermarket manager to sell a hot pepper sauce that she is making. Then she turns her house into a small factory, filling pots with red sauce.
The inhabitants are appalled. She should wait for her husband to come home, not build a new life for herself. Men taunt her and even worse. Her non-widowed colleagues are reluctant to join her in her new business for fear of being seen as scandalous.
Fahrije persists. Her daughter turns on her, her stepfather is angry, his business is vandalized. And yet, it persists.
Director Bierta Basholli tells a true story here – there really is a Fahrije and a red pepper sauce – but she eschews any sentimentality or romance. While setting up his business, Fahrije also gives his stepfather a bath, fixes a broken pipe and gets stung by bees.
Gashi’s solid, pragmatic portrayal of a strong, pragmatic woman doesn’t traffic cheap inspiration, and neither does Basholli’s film. Instead, it serves as an indictment against cultural restrictions and absurd traditions. And a reminder that the tragedies of war extend beyond the battlefield.
Tom Long is a longtime contributor to The Detroit News.
NOTE: B +
Duration: 84 minutes
At the Detroit Cinema