It has been a while since American director Joshua Marston came out of nowhere with his well received drug tale Maria Full of Grace. His belated follow-up after a series of projects that fell through, The Forgiveness of Blood runs the risk of classifying mr. Marston on the "professional traveler"/"liberal well-meaning director" drawer, as he now moves to a tale of Albanian blood feuds shot mostly on location with non-professional teenage leads. You would be mistaken to fall in such a trap: it's a sober, solid follow-up that studiously avoids any and all gratuitous exoticism and condescending first-world look.
Mr. Marston adopts the languorous, slow rhythm of this rural society where cellphones are ubqiuitous but blood feuds from times immemorial still maintain whole families locked inside their houses, for years if needs be. The Forgiveness of Blood follows the points of view of brother and sister Nik and Rudina (Tristan Halilaj and Sindi Laçej), whose lives and hopes for the future are thrown into disarray as their father's feud with a neighbour leads to tragedy and to the family's forced seclusion. A silent, tense tug-of-war between longstanding, backward looking traditions and the desire to build a better future, mr. Marston's sophomore feature could use some more formal and structural ambition. But the strength of the premise and the determined way in which he builds his story without either undermining the delicate emotional balance the story needs or overstating its melodramatic side more than makes up for an overly slow set-up and some ponderounsess.
Starring Tristan Halilaj, Sindi Laçej, Refet Abazi, Ilire Vinca Çelaj.
Directed by Joshua Marston; produced by Paul Mezey; written by mr. Marston and Andamion Murataj; music by Jacobo Lieberman and Leonardo Heiblum; director of photography (Technicolor), Rob Hardy; production designer, Tommaso Ortino; costume designer, Emir Turkeshi; film editor, Malcolm Jamieson.
A Fandango Portobello presentation, in association with Artists Public Domain, Cinereach and Lisson Media, of a Journeyman Pictures production; with the support of the Göteborg International Festival Film Fund and New York State Council on the Arts; Phoenix Film Investments. (World sales, Fandango Portobello Sales.)
Screened: Berlin Film Festival 2011 official selection, Berlinale Palast (Berlin), February 18th 2011.