Quart Léonard | Letter from New York: Watching Movies Up Close | Chroniclers
I’ve seen a lot of new movies lately – some in theaters and most of them on screens shown to me.
One of the best I watched on my computer was “Hive,” a three-time Sundance Award winner that opened November 5 at the Film Forum on West Houston Street in New York City.
In a world where ethnic massacres are rife, it can be hard to remember that over 20 years ago, Kosovo’s war with Serbia and Montenegro left 12,000 dead and over 3,000 missing. , mainly Kosovar Albanians. “Hive” centers on Fahrije (Yllka Gashi) who, like many other women in her patriarchal village in Kosovo, had lived with waning hope and overwhelming sadness that her missing husband would one day return from this war.
Although still an integral part of the extremely traditional ethos of the village, Fahrije, a very determined and uneducated peasant woman, begins to assert herself powerfully and make independent choices. Her only way to make a living has been to care for her husband’s hives which are underperforming financially and require a constant suspicion of being stung by the bees she takes care of. Therefore, she tries to gather the other women in the village to sell homemade chili sauce. She faces opposition from her wheelchair-bound stepfather who tells her: “You have to know your place in the family. But she is able to counter by saying, “I can’t count on you, father.” Her daughter and son also express their opposition to her breaking with village norms, and she faces great resistance from the men in the village, who oppose women driving, let alone the opening a business. They angrily smash her car window, but she doesn’t allow it to stop her. Yet, with the exception of an unconventional and outspoken elderly woman, Naza, the other women are reluctant to join her in the business, fearing they will be faced with nasty gossip from their fellow villagers.
The director of “Hive” uses handheld shots and close-ups of Fahrije’s very loud, granite face, and avoids any melodramatic moment. He also stays with the external story, rather than really exploring Fahrije’s internal conflicts and emotional state. The film is linked to everyday life – Fahrjie makes hot pepper sauce, sells it to the manager of a supermarket in town, interacts with her children and the other women who eventually join her and help make the sauce.
This realistic, feminist film is a bit predictable, with women creating a sense of solidarity between them by its conclusion. They even do a folk dance to celebrate their unity. However, the film is a tight, at times bright, tale of a woman’s survival and triumph in a society that has always viewed women as subordinate.
“The art of doing it”
Kelcey Edwards’ The Art of Making It is presented at DOC NYC which opened in 2010 and in 2014 became America’s largest documentary film festival. It’s an eight-day festival that’s screened at the Village IFC and other Manhattan theaters, along with panels and conversations with the directors. The film follows a diverse group of promising artists at defining moments in their careers, as well as interviews with critics, collectors, professors and curators. It examines whether institutions like the University’s Master of Fine Arts (Yale) programs that aim to train talented young artists are failing many of them instead. It also repeatedly shows how money speaks in the art world, where dealers and wealthy collectors have power and can make and break an artist’s career. Collectors also sit on the boards of major museums, and much of the institutional power in the art world is interconnected and totally unregulated – a world dominated by sharks. Museums themselves receive only 15 percent of their operating costs from government – the rest comes from donors and foundations.
The film centers on a number of painters. One of them is the Hispanic “dreamer” and DACA recipient Felipe Baeza, whose paintings and printmaking center on migration, displacement and self-examination. Another is Jenna Gribbon, who has achieved much success, painting mainly figuratively from memory, art history and contemporary life. Her paintings are lush and seek intimacy and also empathy with her subject. The painter who receives the most footage – articulate and thoughtful Chris Watts – has graduated from Yale University’s Master of Fine Arts program. However, he continued as an abstract painter who painted on soft, transparent textiles and “captivated” the director of the film.
Edwards’ film embraces art and artists and understands their desperation in an ultra-competitive and rapacious world where among the many artists produced by art schools, only a few succeed. Despite the obnoxious and profit-obsessed aspects of the art world, which the film does not fear, Edwards regards the film as a “love letter to the art world and reminds people why art matters. “.
This is important because art is about asking questions – with “each artist creating a space to have a dialogue in a deeply personal way” – and can be bigger than their life. Edwards’ film insightfully sheds light on both the dynamics of the art world and the artistic process itself.