Home. (2016). 24 minutes. Directed by More Raça. Featuring Xhejlane Tërbunja, Sunaj Raça, Florentina Ademi, and Kumrije Hoxha
What does the word “home” represent? The answer to that question changes based on who you ask. For Hava, the protagonist of More Raça’s short film Home, that word has a lot of meanings and feelings attached to it.
After the death of her father, Hava learns that although she has legal claim to her inheritance and ancestral home, she’ll never be able to receive it because of the gender and cultural norms in Kosovo, where the film takes place. As the film explains, Kosovan daughters are not expected to receive any money or property; in lieu of that, it is the brothers’ responsibility to find a husband who will support them. Hava makes it clear that she is not interested in being married off. Her refusal to follow misogynist cultural norms leads to Hava being emotionally and physically alienated from her family, and she loses the only home she’s ever known.
Xhejlane Tërbunja does an amazing job bringing Hava’s story to life for viewers. It is the subtlety of Tërbunja’s acting that makes her portrayal of Hava so powerful and real. The emotions that Hava feels are clearly demonstrated through her facial expressions and body language, and the dialogue is all the more impactful because it only comes after suspense is built by a purposeful use of silence.
I found it compelling how Hava communicated with those around her. She is outspoken about what she believes in and protests with both her words and her actions. One striking example of Hava’s mode of protest is when she is riding the bus with her brother. He comes to her work to escort her to a meeting with a man whom he is hoping she will marry, and while they are sitting next to each other on the bus, her brother demands that Hava put on lipstick. While Hava appears to comply, she is actually performing an act of resistance as she purposely applies the lipstick poorly. Without even speaking a word, she makes her feelings about the situation known.
Hava’s determination is a theme throughout the film. She knows how she is and isn’t willing to be treated and will not compromise. As a character, I found Hava to be truly inspirational. Not only is she fighting against the patriarchal laws that tell her she has no claim to her inheritance, she is also challenging the heteronormativity of the world around her by loving a woman instead of allowing herself to be married off to a man she can’t love. Throughout the film, viewers come to realize that Hava is unapologetically herself in all situations, which unfortunately isn’t an accepted state of being for most LGBTQ individuals both in Kosovo and around the world.
The cinematography beautifully compliments the storyline. One shot in particular that stuck with me long after I finished watching was when Hava walked into a building after work to meet with her girlfriend. The main focus of the shot is an old, rectangular building with writing on the walls. It is evening, so the light from the building is shining out from the doors and windows. We see Hava as she walks alone outside and gets smaller as she moves inside into the light of the building. I felt that this was powerful and showed that even though Hava is isolated and alone, she is still able to follow what she believes in and find areas of light.
Another aspect that I thought was especially well done was the way that the cinematography and score work together to reinforce the emotion of the film. In the scene where Hava is sitting at a bus stop after refusing to stay at the apartment her aunt found for her because the landlord made unwanted sexual advances, there is soft piano music in a minor key along with occasional heavy drum beats. I felt that the score elevated this scene and helped viewers to more deeply connect with Hava. For me, the music took the place of an internal monologue throughout the film and gave me a sense of Hava’s thoughts and feelings.
Home is a powerful story about one woman’s determination to stay true to herself in the face of societal pressures telling her that she has no value besides what the men in her life give her. It’s rare to find films that bring together the themes and culture that Home does, but they are sorely needed. Hopefully Home inspires others to tell these vitally important stories. If you haven’t already, you should definitely see this film. I know I’ll be watching it again as I anxiously await Raça’s future projects.