Sunday, August 05, 2007

I IS FOR INDIA merely scratches the surface

I IS FOR INDIA is another one of those festival circuit documentaries in an opportunistic film-maker edits their home video footage and opens up their life to view. In this case, Director Sandhya Suri uses Super-8 cine-letters shot by her father - an immigrant doctor in 1970s Darlington - and the replies shot by their family back in India. The social and cultural insights are limited. The familiar news-clips of the National Front are used in a heavy-handed manner. And the straight-forward splicing together of old footage leaves little room for analysis. You get the odd clip of Suri's father complaining about double-standards, or protesting his loyalty to his homeland. But the only real insights we get are during the nine-month period when the family decamps to India. With cine-correspondance redundant, Suri actually has to interview her family and ask them how they felt about going "home". It's no co-incidence that this is the most interesting segment of the film. Other than that, the movie carries on in meandering, seemingly arbitrary fashion and closes out with history repeating itself. A sister leaves from Australia to escape unspecified unhappiness. Suri's father can now empathise with his own father, and shed tears for a child who can only be happy on the other side of the earth. But even here, perhaps understandably, Suri only scratches the surface of her family's emotional life. If you want to understand the immigrant experience, you'd do better to watch THE NAMESAKE.

I IS FOR INDIA played the festival circuit and is currently on limited release in the UK.

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