We Came Home: Film Review
Ariana Delawari's documentary recounts her family's reconnection with her father's Afghan homeland.
The power of music as a bridge across cultures is vividly illustrated in We Came Home, musician Ariana Delawari’s deeply personal documentary recounting her multi-ethnic family’s activist efforts in post-Taliban-ruled Afghanistan and her creation of an album featuring collaborations between American and Afghan musicians. While this diary-like film featuring a plethora of home movies and photographs is too rough-hewn to be fully effective, it nonetheless achieves a haunting quality in its portrait of a family marked by its patriarch’s devotion to his homeland.
The opening scenes recount the story of several generations of the Delawari family, including Ariana’s Afghan father, Noorullah, and her American mother, Setara. Noorullah returned to Afghanistan in 2002, after the Taliban was ousted from power, and became a principal figure in the country’s financial reorganization, eventually becoming the head of its central bank.
Ariana and her sisters went to visit soon afterward and were struck by the richness of the country’s cultural heritage. After several subsequent trips, she decided to record an album featuring veteran Afghan musicians, whose freedom to play was formerly denied by the Taliban. One elderly player even describes how his instrument was destroyed by a Taliban soldier.
The film’s centerpiece is a recording session held at the family’s home in Kabul, which eventually resulted in the acclaimed 2009 album Lion of Panjshir. It was partially produced by filmmaker David Lynch, who released it on his own record label and who is featured in a later scene shot in a Los Angeles studio. A particularly emotional segment depicts Ariana breaking down while recording one of her vocals.
The film contains no shortage of dramatic incidents, such as its recounting of Noorullah’s being arrested and charged with embezzlement, only to later be cleared and reinstated in his position. But it’s most effective in its quieter moments in which the filmmaker pridefully ruminates about the family’s notable contributions to her father’s homeland.
Opens Sept. 27 (Delawari Productions)
Director: Ariana Delawari
Producers: Yasmine Delawari Johnson, Emily Lynch, Ariana Delawari
Directors of photography: Emily Lynch, Ariana Delawari
Editors: Farah X, Max Goldblatt
Composers: Ariana Delwari, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson
Not rated, 83 min.