Yllka Gashi stars in Hive, a 2021 Sundance Film Festival award-winner about a woman in war-torn Kosovo who is determined to provide for her family.
By Vanessa Zimmer
A slew of award-winning cinema from the 2021 Sundance Film Festival opens up to the wider world in November, among the new releases to theaters and digital venues.
Two acclaimed films competed in the World Cinema category, one in fiction and one in nonfiction. Hive won the Grand Jury Prize in the dramatic section, as well as the Directing Award for Blerta Basholli. Writing with Fire was singled out for a Special Jury Award: Impact for Change in the documentary section. Both films also earned Audience Awards, thanks to their heart-driven stories of determined women versus their patriarchal societies.
Hive is based on a true story of a woman still mourning a husband who went missing in the Kosovo War, but who pushes onward, encouraging the women of her community to join with her in a business to support their families.
Writing with Fire follows the fearless all-woman staff of a newspaper in India, at least one of whom buys her first-ever cellphone as they turn from print to digital delivery of hard-hitting news.
“Thanks to the directors’ intimate yet respectful lens, we witness these rural reporters’ awe-inspiring efforts to dismantle patriarchy and redefine traditional notions of power,” our programmers wrote. “Writing with Fire is an electrifying reminder to never underestimate the strength of a woman who’s had enough.”
Read on to learn more about the Sundance-supported new releases hitting theaters and streaming platforms in November.
Son of Monarchs
As a boy in Michoacán, Mexico, Mendel is fascinated by the monarch butterflies in the forests. When he grows up, he becomes a biologist in New York, intent on mapping out the monarch’s genetics. But a trip home to Mexico triggers a personal metamorphosis as he struggles with his hybrid cultural identity. For its treatment of a scientific subject, the Alexis Gambis film won the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize at the 2021 Festival. It comes to HBO Max on November 2, after limited theatrical showings in October.
Fahrije’s husband disappeared during the war in Kosovo, but she perseveres with their beekeeping business. Then, when the bees stop producing honey, she turns to making ajvar, a locally beloved roasted red pepper sauce, and selling it in the city. Meeting resistance from the patriarchal society at every turn, she quietly organizes her community of women so they can support themselves. Written and directed by Blerta Basholli, the film won the Audience Award, the Directing Award, and the Grand Jury Prize in the World Cinema Dramatic competition at the 2021 Festival. It is slated for a November 5 theatrical release.
Jesmark, a Maltese fisherman, contends with a newfound leak in his wooden luzzu boat. Barely getting by, he sees his livelihood — and a family tradition for generations — imperiled by diminishing harvests, a ruthless fishing industry, and a stagnating ecosystem. Desperate to provide for his wife and their newborn son, whose growth impediment requires treatment, Jesmark gradually drifts into an illicit black-market fishing operation. Luzzu arrives online on November 12, after a theatrical run in October.
I Was a Simple Man
Hawai’i’s pastoral landscape — the constant wind, the lush plant life, the sounds of the waves and the birds — plays a central role in the story of Masao. As Masao naars the end of his life, he is visited by the ghosts of his past. The result is a dreamlike history of a family and that family’s Oahu home. Writer-director Christopher Makoto Yogi’s film — incubated in the Sundance labs in 2015 — receives a limited theatrical release on November 19.
Writing with Fire
This documentary tells the story of an all-woman news outlet in India. These women were among the Dalit, or lower-caste, population at one time, but they share the fire and dedication to rally for competence and justice in government, as well as freedom from violence. The film, which won an Audience Award and the Special Jury Award: Impact for Change, releases theatrically on November 26.
Three teenage girlfriends come of age in a small Texas town in this documentary by directors Parker Hill and Isabel Bethencourt. “As the girls open up about their pasts and explore their definitions of freedom and consent, Cusp illustrates how they rebel against or assimilate to societal expectations and toxic masculinity as a survival tactic,” wrote Sundance programmer Heidi Zwicker. The documentary won a Special Jury Award: Emerging Filmmaker, and it airs November 26 on Showtime and thereafter on demand.