A believable superhero

Blerta Basholli and Yllka Gashi on creating a community in Kosovo’s Oscar submission Hive

by Anne-Katrin Titze

Hive director/screenwriter Blerta Basholli with her star Yllka Gashi on bees: “They are important, but I’m scared!”
Hive director/screenwriter Blerta Basholli with her star Yllka Gashi on bees: “They are important, but I’m scared!”

In the second instalment with Hive director/screenwriter Blerta Basholli and her star Yllka Gashi on Kosovo’s Oscar submission to the 94th Academy Awards, we discuss working with bees, creating a community, and wanting something heavy in the house. Earlier this year Hive received three much deserved World Cinema Sundance Film Festival honours - Grand Jury Prize, Directing, and the Audience Award.

Yllka Gashi on working with the bees: “When we rehearsed the scenes before we started shooting, I was amazed by how they protect the queen bee and everything.”
Yllka Gashi on working with the bees: “When we rehearsed the scenes before we started shooting, I was amazed by how they protect the queen bee and everything.”

From Spain, during the Valladolid International Film Festival, Blerta Basholli and Yllka Gashi joined me on Zoom for an in-depth conversation on Hive.

Anne-Katrin Titze: How was it working with the bees for you? The character you play gets stung all the time.

Yllka Gashi: When we rehearsed, I didn’t have a problem at all. I’m not scared of the bees, like for example Blerta is, or my daughter, who’s terrified of them. I love bees, they are very important for our environment.

AKT: Yes, they are!

Blerta Basholli: They are important, but I’m scared!

YG: We had this guy who helped us with the hives and everything. He is a honey producer in Kosovo and his honey is amazing as well. He told us how to approach the bees and how they feel your fear or your anger and they respond to that. When we rehearsed the scenes before we started shooting, I was amazed by how they protect the queen bee and everything.

On the actual days we shot those scenes, the ones where I’m getting the honey out, I got stung like five or six times. And it hurts. And I didn’t even know if I had allergies because I was never stung by bees before in my life. Thank goodness I didn’t. It was interesting and a little bit scary, to be honest.

Wives holding the pictures of their missing husbands
Wives holding the pictures of their missing husbands

During the rehearsals, I was awesome! They didn’t sting me. I think they liked me, I liked them as well, I’m not scared at all. They have a time when you shouldn’t touch the hives because they get really agitated. But we didn’t know that at the moment. I waited for Blerta to say “cut” in order for me to tell them “I have been stung!”

AKT: It’s great that the character isn’t perfect with the bees. There are so many things in your film that aren’t standard at all. Another one is the use of the table saw and how you place it in the driveway. And it stays there. The object here is a symbol, but a real-life symbol of what she has to overcome. It’s a great metaphor and a beautiful part of the plot.

BB: First of all, about the bees - she [Fahrije in real life] really worked with the bees. And then she told me that the bees stung her and I’m really scared of insects. She would say that they would sting her all the time. I asked but why? She was like, first of all, I’m not good with them, and second of all, I was the whole time very anxious and sad and they feel that. Then she told me, “the bees are like women.” Like the widowed women that she works with.

Blerta Basholli on Fahrije played by Yllka Gashi: “She is a superhero, even today. And she is always going to be my superhero.”
Blerta Basholli on Fahrije played by Yllka Gashi: “She is a superhero, even today. And she is always going to be my superhero.”

She’s like “If you’re aggressive and sad and you’re insisting, they sting you. If you’re calm and they feel you’re relaxed, then they are with you.” She was like “That’s how I worked with the women themselves - I didn’t attack them, they should work with me by themselves.” I thought that was very interesting, because I never knew that about the bees and it fit well in the story to also tell about her anxiety.

At the same time, hearing Fahrije’s story sounded like a superhero story. I really did not want to make a superhero story because she overcame so many obstacles, but then it didn’t seem real. At the same time I asked her, did you cry? Did you ever cry? She was like “yeah, I cried every morning. And then I would wipe my tears and go to work.”

AKT: That’s what a superhero really is!

BB: It’s a believable superhero. She is a superhero, even today. And she is always going to be my superhero. She’s not a superhero that never cries. She gets up and moves on.

AKT: Did that conversation about the bees make you choose the title, that the group of women is like a beehive?

Fahrije’s (Yllka Gashi) father-in-law Haxhi (Çun Lajçi)
Fahrije’s (Yllka Gashi) father-in-law Haxhi (Çun Lajçi)

BB: Yes, exactly. She worked with bees, but she is also the queen bee of the women that she gathers around in a hive in a way to move on. She created this community that they saved each other. As she says, otherwise we would have gone crazy, and lost our children, because we would not have been there for them. Regarding the saw, my uncle worked a lot with a saw. I grew up going to his workplace and they were really interesting things to me.

We wanted something that the husband had worked with in the house. Also those sawing machines are very heavy. I wanted something really heavy in her house. When the grandfather refuses, it’s heavy, it’s reminding you all the time of him. Then you have to pull it again inside and it’s again heavy. It was a bit metaphorically playing with the burden the husband left because he has gone missing.

Read what Blerta Basholli and Yllka Gashi had to say on the presence of absence.

The Oscar International Feature Film shortlist of 15 finalists is scheduled to be announced on December 21. The final five nominees are scheduled to be announced on February 8, 2022. The 94th Academy Awards ceremony originally scheduled for Sunday, February 27 will be held on Sunday, March 27, 2022 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.

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