National Film School graduate Sandhya Suri’s delightful, seductive and deceptive documentary/home movie on her family – who, in 1965, arrived from India to settle among the brightening pastel-coloured Cortinas and mini-skirts of an otherwise bland-looking Darlington – offers enjoyment on a number of levels. First of all, it draws very movingly on her doctor father’s own charming and ‘naive’ Super-8 and handycam film – the snowy Northern railway stations contrasted with bustling, stifling Indian bazaars – which she uses to compose a surprisingly revealing and full familial biography. The project is deepened by being an example of a daughter updating, contextualising and enveloping a work begun by a father, with all the emotions and associations that can bring.
It helps, of course, that Dr Yash Suri is such a good, colourful, subject, being articulate, funny and sensitive. It is his daughter’s awareness, and sympathetic treatment, of his dilemmas, feelings and aspirations – expressed in the often confessional commentary he taped as accompaniment to his movies – that makes her film the more powerful as a meditation not only on her own family relationships but more generally on immigration, dislocation, patriotism, racism and what VS Naipaul called ‘the enigma of arrival’. Finally, either by virtue of its fine, discreet editing or by the director’s decision to offer for public consumption what is essentially private material, Suri’s film prompts a wealth of reflections, not least on the layered appeal of ‘home movies’ themselves, with their intriguing, morally complex mix of unmediated intimacy and vicarious fascination. Further, it questions the justice of their subordinate relationship as artisanal primitives to their sophisticated, professional fiction film and documentary cousins as communicators and archivers of our lived reality. A lovely and thoughtful film.