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The Forgiveness of Blood
(No longer in theaters)
Following some aborted higher-budget projects, the young director of Maria Full of Grace, Joshua Marston, journeyed to Albania to make another compelling film touching on the perils of being young—that’s it, merely young—in a culture without justice. The awkward, formal title The Forgiveness of Blood evokes the awkward, formal set of laws called the Kanun, mandating confinement to one’s house on pain of death for families in which one member has committed a high crime. After their father and uncle kill a landowner in a long-lived dispute over road access, the teenage Nik (Tristan Halilaj) and his younger sister, Rudina (Sindi Lacej), are yanked from school and shut away for what could well be years, their development literally arrested. With his father in hiding and childishly unwilling to take responsibility, Nik labors fruitlessly to negotiate a settlement.
Working from a screenplay he co-wrote with Andamion Murataj, Marston treats the story as a case study rich in absurdities—among them the vision of children playing computer games in a home quarantined on the word of ancient and increasingly maladaptive mores. The end is almost too painstakingly respectful of Albanian families still locked up and going mad. The film might well have been called The Punishment of Blood Feuds.