The Forgiveness of Blood – The Criterion Collection #628 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 2, 2012 by  

Another outstanding film from Joshua Marston.  A gripping storyline which immerses the viewer of Albanian culture and its blood feuds that remain relevant in modern society.   “The Forgiveness of Blood” is recommended!

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TITLE: The Forgiveness of Blood – The Criterion Collection #628


DURATION: 109 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 Aspect Ratio), Albanian with English Subtitles


RELEASE DATE: October 16, 2012

Directed by Joshua Marston

Written by Joshua Marston, Andamion Murataj

Produced by Paul Mezey

Co-Produced by Gwen Bialic, Andamion Murataj

Executive Produced by Eric Abraham, Tyler Brodie, Janine Gold, Hunter Gray, Domenico Procacci

Associate Producer: Andrew Goldman

Supervising Producer: Robert Budina

Music by Malcom Jamieson

Casting by Andamion Murataj

Production Design by Tommaso Ortino


Refet Abazi as Mark

Tristan Halilaj as Nik

Sindi Lacej as Rudina

Luhan Jaha as Zef

Veton Osmani as Sokol

Ilire Vinca Celaj as Drita

American director Joshua Marston emerged in 2004 with the jolting, Oscar-nominated Maria Full of Grace, about a young Colombian woman working as a drug mule. In his remarkable follow-up, The Forgiveness of Blood, he turns his camera on another corner of the world: contemporary northern Albania, a place still troubled by the ancient custom of interfamilial blood feuds. From this reality, Marston sculpts a fictional narrative about a teenage brother and sister physically and emotionally trapped in a cycle of violence, a result of their father’s entanglement with a rival clan over a piece of land. The Forgiveness of Blood is a tense and perceptive depiction of a place where tradition and progress coexist uneasily, as well as a dynamic coming-of-age drama.

Director Joshua Marsten may be known for directing many American drama series, but his 2004 Oscar-nominated  film “Maria Full of Grace”, caught the attention of many film critics for its natural, deep and surprising storyline of a young pregnant woman in Colombia working as a drug mule in order to raise money for her family.

This time around, Marsten takes his film to Albania where he focuses on Gjakmarrja (Albania feud).  In Albania, a person can kill another person to save one’s honor questioned by an earlier murder or moral obligation.

“The Forgiveness of Blood” is a film that focuses on a family with the patriarch Zef (portrayed by Luan Jaha) who owns a bread delivery service.  His oldest son is Nik who is a teenager who is popular at school and going after one of the prettiest girls at school, while Rudina is smart and doing very well in school.

And for the family to get to their destination, they typically cut through their neighbor’s yard as a shortcut.  The land was once owned by Zef’s family but has a new owner who does not want anyone to cross through it.  They know it’s Zef and his family that crosses over and during an exchange at a diner, tensions between families begin to escalate.

One day, while Zef was picking up his daughter Rudina and taking her home, they find that their shortcut has been blocked by their neighbors who tell them they must go through the long way.  Zef tries to argue that the land has been opened for everyone to go through, but the owners don’t want anyone trespassing through their land.  And an argument ensues.

What we see is Zef taking his daughter back home and then preparing to go back to argue with the neighbor.

Next thing you know, Nik is picked up by his family and it is learned that his father and uncle went to confront the neighbor and during a fight, they killed the neighbor.  While the uncle is arrested and will be serving time in prison, Zef orders his family to stay in the house. And because of that, “Gjakmarrja” (blood feud) has begun.  Laws that are based on the Albanian Kunan code.

While the women are allowed to leave the home, Zef has his children stay in the home in fear.  As part of their hope to attain a “Besa” or family honor, as a family, they will all stay home, except the women who must now become the breadwinners of the family.  If given a Besa, then they can leave.

This becomes problematic for the entire family as Zef can no longer deliver bread, so his daughter Rudina must quit school and now continue the family business of making money for the family.

As for Nik, the solitude of staying in his home as a prisoner becomes difficult for him.  While he can play video games and watch TV, he misses his friends and misses seeing the girl he likes.

Knowing that he can not leave the home, the solitude of staying home like a prisoner is becoming too much for him that he tries to escape home by sneaking out.

For both Nik and Rudina, they would love to have their lives return to normal.  But will life ever be normal for Nik and Rudina ever again?


“The Forgiveness of Blood – The Criterion Collection #628” is a film presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio).  “The Forgiveness of Blood” is a film that looks very good on Blu-ray, while low-light, night scenes do showcase a bit of noise, the picture quality of the film looks natural with a good amount of grain throughout the film.

I didn’t see any major use of DNR throughout the film, nor did I notice any artifacts or any problematic situations while watching the film.  If anything, picture quality for this film is very good.

According to the Criterion Collection, the transfer was approved by director of photography Rob Hardy and the new high-definition digital transfer was created on an ARRISCAN film scanner from the Super 16 mm negative.


“The Forgiveness of Blood – The Criterion Collection #628” is presented in Albanian 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Dialogue is crystal clear, as this is a film that primarily is dialogue-driven but while the families do live out in the country, there is good use in showcasing the ambiance of living in the country and hearing the sounds of dogs barking or insects as part of that ambiance.

According to the Criterion Collection, the soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the original digital audio master files using Pro Tools HD.


“The Forgiveness of Blood – The Criterion Collection #628” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director and co-writer Joshua Marston recorded in 2012.
  • Truth on the Ground – (17:39) Producer Paul Mezey talks about the challenges and beauty of filming “The Forgiveness of Blood” in Albania.  Featuring interviews with a few of the cast members.
  • Acting Close to Home – (23:28) Refet Abazi, Tristan Halilaj and Sindi LAcej discuss blood feauds in Albania and connecting with thier characters.
  • Auditions and Rehearsals – Tristan Halilay and Sindi Lacej’s auditions (9:25) and primary cast rehearsal of one scene with director Joshua Marston (10:07).  Spoken in Albanian and English.
  • Trailer – (2:24) The original theatrical trailer for “The Forgiveness of Blood”.


“The Forgiveness of Blood – The Criterion Collection #628” comes with a 20-page booklet with the following essay “How Things Work” by Oscar Moralde.

“The Forgiveness of Blood” will probably be a film that will help people understand Albanian culture and eventually learning about how blood feuds take place and how it can affect an entire family.

Featuring a believable performance by young actors Tristan Halilaj (who plays Nik) and Sindi Lacej (who plays Rudina), “The Forgiveness of Blood” is a film that features honest portrayals of a family that must adhere to Albania law but also giving people a chance to see life and laws that people many not really understand.

The whole blood feud, I have heard before.  But the concept of kanun or besa, I was not familiar with.

We know the boredom and the difficulty that Nik faces as a teenager who is supposed to live his youth with freedom and have fun with his friends.  But because his family caused the murder to another family, in order to stop a war between the families, Albanian law dictates that the men of the family must stay home in their house.  Call it home incarceration, but as a teenager and having only contact with your family and no freedom to leave is too difficult for Nik as he is a young man that should grow up to find love, to have friends and enjoy that part of his life.

For Rudina, her life is severely altered as well.  A straight A student with a life ahead of her, because her father is now stuck at home and is not allowed to leave his property, she and her mother must now be the breadwinners.  She must bare the burden of having to work long hours, trying to make money for the family and feed them.  And for a young teenage girl, similar to Nik, she is being deprived of her family, her friends and as a person who enjoyed her education and excelled at it, her life will be altered forever.

But how long can these children be forced to live this way of life?  How long can a family live a life of being confined to their home.

Suffice to say, director Joshua Marston gives people a chance to see how the “gjakmarrja” affects families and also a rarity to see in today’s modern cinema.

And once again, another film for Joshua Marston of taking on challenging storylines and showcasing a side of society or culture that people are not familiar with and covering it with efficacy.    At first, the Albanian actors were unsure what an American director was planning on doing, but Marston who did thorough research before working on the film, was able to convince the talent that he was creating a film not about the history of Albanian blood wars but showing how blood feud’s can still affect today’s generation.  A generation, no matter how much technology is used by today’s young generation, laws are laws and they must followed.  And everyone is affected by a blood feud.

As for the Blu-ray release, the film looks very good.  Shot in Albania, the use of scenery and Albanian talent help create the believability of this film.  Because the viewer is restricted to a certain location, you can understand and easily sympathize with Nik and Rudina.  Picture quality is very good, featuring a good amount of grain, the lossless soundtrack also showcases the ambiance heard out in the country from dogs to insects, once again, adds to the believability of the film.

And the film also has an insightful audio commentary, interviews and a thorough essay included as well!

Overall, “The Forgiveness of Blood” is another outstanding film from Joshua Marston.  A gripping storyline which immerses the viewer of Albanian culture and its blood feuds that remain relevant in modern society.   “The Forgiveness of Blood” is recommended!


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