HOME: A Taxing Inheritance As Told By More Raça
Home is an unapologetic look at the limited options available for Kosovo women and the oppression of its patriarchy.
Hava (Xheljane Tërbunja) is a woman in her thirties, who currently resides in the suburban province of Prishtina, Kosovo. She commutes to the city as she maintains her job as a chef at a fast food restaurant. When both of her parents passed away, her brothers conspired their inheritance amongst themselves. In alignment with Kosovo traditional customs, the benefactors of the estate are limited to male descendants, resulting in Hava being deprived of her rightful share of the family legacy. Her siblings believe that given her age, she should find a husband and live with him. The job of finding her an acceptable suitor is left to her brother, Qazim (Sunaj Raça).
Kosovan cinema does not garnish the Western viewership, that the quality of film should dictate. Limitations of production and distribution make filming a daunting prospect. Thankfully, Home did not go unnoticed as it secured a premiere at the Raindance Film Festival with the hope it will be made readily available to a larger audience. It is a fluid amalgamation of social awareness and captivating narrative – its political message working in unison with its storytelling.
Granted the fairy meta title of ‘Home‘, the premise of the film being the idea of homelessness. However it does not examine life on the streets but more an unapologetic look at the limited options available for Kosovo women and the oppression of the patriarchy. Despite her best efforts, with no prospect of a progression within her career, she remains unable to support herself and ends up with nothing.
Female Inheritance: Limited by Law or Traditions?
Whilst the legal restrictions may have been amended in order to give women equal rights when inheriting paternal property, many women in Kosovo are still cautious to pursue their claim. According to the BIRN Kosovo Report on property registered on the name of a woman, a mere 16% were female owners.
In one case, a women who refused to be named, fought for her right to live in her familial home. The trail lasted fifteen years – thankfully the court ruled in her favor. Despite the result, her brother refused to let her in the house. Her options were limited – she felt calling in the police and forcing entry was extreme. She was one of the few that pursued judicial action in order to obtain what should rightfully have been hers. Although, the law has been changed for a couple of years now, the awareness about their new rights is still a problem.
Raça told us she recognized this problem and wants to address it via the medium of film. “The problem of inheritance is very concerning. In 2016, only 4% of women have inherited property from their parents – this small percentage indicated that this is a huge issue. This is due to women being deprived of the right to inherit property, it has subsequently pushed me to deal with the topic in my film, since these statistics are worrying and show that women in Kosovo are not treated the same, although legally they are now on a similar footing, there is a lack of implementation”.
Rebel with a Cause
More Raça, the writer and director of the film is of Kosovan descent. Both her films, Amel and Home, have accrued critical international acclaim. Her focus is to showcase problems and challenges that women are faced with on both a social and economic level. The self-proclaimed activist, engages in the protection and promotion of women’s rights and the minorities that live in Kosovo. She has said, “I deal with the reality of the society that I live in. A society in transit, where we constantly face different challenges. This, together with the diversity within our society makes life unusual. Neither good, nor bad, but… interesting. When I make a film, I want to be original and give to the audience a story from where I live.”
Some critics have described the film as an examination of Kosovan realism, no clouds with silver linings. The limited solutions available to Hava is just another form of patriarchal suppression, which she forcefully rejects. What Raça does masterfully well is her addressing of the issue, the audience isn’t engendering hostility towards a specific character but the issue as a whole. In the grand scheme of things promoting a bigger awareness and hopefully triggering more global proactive approach to tackling these problems facing women.
An additional dimension to Hava’s story is that the dialogue alludes to her being a lesbian with her ‘girlfriend’, played by Florentina Ademi. Due to the return of a man, presumably her husband, she is forced to end the relationship. Another example of women forced to conform to societies pressures, suppressing her own sexuality while her male master is present. Hava begs for her girlfriend to abscond with her, but due to her children she has to stay. Raça commented that, “LGBT relationships are still taboo in Kosovo in that people cannot display their sexual orientation. I think that as much as these issues are covered in film, this way it will give support to the LGBT community.”
Home: In Conclusion
Both the directer and her cinematographer, Latif Hasolli, utilize deep focus long shots in order to film the capital, Prishtina. Its towering minarets silhouetting the night sky are something to behold. In contrast, flat lighting and the use of a steady camera add a remarkable edge to the seemingly dour everyday shots. A striking shot, seemingly beloved among critics is a train track backdrop with elongated shadows contrasting with the weathered and insipid brickwork works masterfully well. Hava’s face stands starkly against the sepia location.
Home isn’t a maudlin film, the narrative bares no sympathy to its main female protagonist, instead engaging the viewer to feel pity on their part. Raça has said, “There is a message I want my audience to understand. I know many LGBT people who because of the prejudice that they can face from society, are not free to live out their life and ‘come out’. Their life is very difficult because of these prejudices that their society has. The films message, that I hope to affect society and alter their wrong perception. In my opinion, as much as we talk about the issues that LGBT people face, the more society will understand them. I think that the gap between the society and the LGBT community is the lack of communication, at least an emotional one.”
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Home was released in France at the Festival Chéries – Chéris November 16, 2016. For all international released dates, see here.
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