I for India



First Run/Icarus Films

There are many independent films that seem like little more than home movies, and that is literally the case with director Sandhya Suri's documentary about her family. But despite its rough-hewn technical aspects, "I for India" emerges as a moving portrait of cultural dislocation and the emotional complexities of family dynamics.

The film recently received its U.S. theatrical premiere at New York's Pioneer Theater.

The film centers on the filmmaker's father, Yash Pal Suri, who emigrated from India to England in 1965 in search of better medical training. Finding frustration in attempts to communicate with his relatives in his native country by phone and letters, he bought matching sets of 8mm cameras and projectors and reel-to-reel tape recorders. During the course of the next several decades, he kept in touch with his parents and siblings via swapped film and audio recordings.

Interspersed with excerpts from these missives -- in which family tensions are exposed with a startling emotional intimacy -- are numerous excerpts from British news programs that detail the rising tensions caused by the ever-increasing numbers of immigrants entering the country.

The father's ill-fated attempt to move back to India in the early 1980s with his wife and three children is the impetus for a series of moving interviews conducted by the filmmaker with family members about the different paths their lives have taken.

Things come full circle with the decision of daughter Vanita to move to Australia, with her parents' grief all too reminiscent of the pain suffered by the earlier generation.