Blerta Basholli and Ylka Gashi interview: ‘Hive’ director and actress
Kosovo’s entry for Best International Feature Film at the 94th Academy Awards, “Hive,” tells the true story of Fahrije Hoti (played by Ylka Gashi), whose husband has been missing since the war in Kosovo. She sets up her own small business to provide for her kids, but as she fights against a patriarchal society that does not support her, she faces a crucial decision. The film was directed and written by Blerta Basholli, who is excited to represent Kosovo for the first time on the 2022 Oscars shortlist. Watch our exclusive video interview with Basholli and Gashi above.
“It feels great,” says Basholli. “The film has had a really interesting journey and lovely one since Sundance last year. 2021 was a good journey for ‘Hive’ and for us. We come from a small country and although we have a lot of beautiful stories to tell, we do come from a small country. [After being shortlisted] the whole country of Kosovo is cheering for us.”
Gashi knew she wanted to play the part of Hoti as soon as she heard about the film. “We went to meet Fahrije for the first time,” the actor describes. “Ever since then, making ‘Hive’ became a mission for us. It became a dream for me. I knew Fahrije’s story because she was on TV a lot. We saw a lot of stories about the widows and how they were organizing protests to ask the government questions about their loved ones’ remains. It took quite a long time to make the film, from 2011 to 2021 when it premiered at Sundance. So many things happened during those years. But I never gave up on this dream and [Blerta] didn’t either.”
“The pressure is very [high] when you play a real person who is alive,” Gashi continues. “They might not like you or the way you portray them. You have this huge responsibility to honor them and do them justice. We didn’t want to hurt her, we wanted to honor her and share her story because we were impressed by her. As an actor, I saw her. I saw how she talks. I observed her attitude and the way she handled herself. That helps you to pick up on small traits to help you build the character.”
Before shooting the film, Basholli says they searched a lot of villages in Kosovo to find an area that would look realistic for the time portrayed. “We were looking for a village that looks more war-torn,” she explains. In the village they filmed within, “the houses do look like they had been burned. It looks older and it looks more true and authentic. That’s why we decided to shoot there. It was also hard to shoot there because the roads are so small. We loved the village and luckily the woman who owned the house was really good to work with. All I really asked from everybody was to be honest and true. Let’s not try to create something that’s not believable and authentic. Everybody put their heart and passion into this story.”
“Hive” is the first international film to make the Oscar shortlist from the country of Kosovo. It is also the feature directorial debut from Basholli and Gashi’s first leading role.