A veteran junior high school teacher in rural Macedonia finds the ethnic rivalries of his homeland are replicated in microcosm among his unruly student body, in this satirical fable from first-time director Izer Aliu.
Filmmakers have often devised unique cinematic languages to critique or satirize their societies. Directors working in Soviet satellite states at the height of the Cold War created surreal allegorical fables to expose the absurdities of Communist orthodoxy, while the great Iranian filmmakers of the 1980s and '90s (most significantly the late Abbas Kiarostami) examined adult hypocrisy through the experiences of children. With his feature debut, Hunting Flies, Izer Aliu resurrects and fuses these traditions by setting his critique of the mad world of adults within a junior high school in rural Macedonia.
As the film begins, the ostensible hero, veteran teacher Ghani, is pleading with his school's new principal to keep him on staff. A recent change in government means that the new group in power will likely fire the school's old administration and bring in their own people, regardless of their experience, as sinecures for the ethic group that got them elected. This ethnic rivalry is keenly felt by the students in Ghani's class, who are constantly at one another's throats. While Ghani struggles to create common ground between the two factions, the newly appointed teachers are more than happy to stay outside the classroom, smoking, gossiping, and smacking kids upside the head when they get unruly. As the days wear on and his fate continues to hang in the balance, Ghani comes to realize that harmony may not be the best career move for him.
A surprisingly mature debut, Hunting Flies is a timely and resonant reminder that the sins of the fathers are not simply visited upon the sons, but repeated by them.