“Broken House”: a film about the phenomenon of immigration and homesickness
Broken House is a documentary film by Jimmy Goldblum that tells the story of Mohamad Hafez, a Syrian citizen who moved to the United States on a single-entry visa to study architecture and was unable to return to his homeland. Faced with his fate, he channeled his homesickness into his artwork and began creating miniature sculptures of his homeland, creating the “Damascus of his Memories”.
“If you can’t go home, why don’t you create your own home.” Telling the story of the people who live there, the architectural project takes on a political dimension after the start of the Syrian civil war, showing the scale of the devastation suffered by the city, humanizing the refugees and sharing their stories.
The film begins in the architect’s studio, where the protagonist talks about the cathartic and therapeutic role of art. “When we leave, we leave so much aside,” the artist says. The struggle to escape is accompanied by an internal conflict, steeped in the concepts of defeat and loss. “When we leave, we miss birthdays, weddings, funerals… to be in each other’s lives,” he adds.
When the Syrian war began, Hafez, like many others, began to live a double life, torn between two realities. He constantly monitored the situation at home, keeping his face covered and going about his daily business. Reflecting on what could be done, he channeled his violent emotions into art and decided to embody what was happening in architecture.
Cultural and architectural losses
Instead of sharing images of corpses, because, as Mohamad himself says, “how many bodies you can see,” the architect presents unfiltered reality in his models so that people can fully understand the scale of destruction, whether it be the destruction of lives. , culture or identity. “The war in Syria was covered in the United States with an emphasis on grotesque imagery. Violence as a way to evoke sympathy. This flurry of horrific images was a new trauma for the refugees and immigrants whose stories were supposedly being told. these communities to make room for their sadness, their homesickness,” explains Jimmy Goldblum, director of the documentary.
“If you want to erase the history of a country, you are destroying its architecture.” In this war-torn country, buildings built years ago vanished in a split second. The created environment that shaped generation after generation disappeared as a result of an inhuman decision. The city, that complex mixture of layers carved into the collective memory, no longer existed. In practice, all the legacy left by civilizations has dissolved, erasing society from the face of the earth.
Hiraeth, the documentary’s original title, is a Welsh word for a state of extreme homesickness, the absence of a country that no longer exists or never was, describing a deep longing for something that no longer exists. The documentary explores a complex mixture of desire, melancholy nostalgia and intense longing for the past, which is usually accompanied by an unrevealed understanding that what once was will never be again, and the wisher will never have yours. object of desire. According to the director, “The film is about the difficult conditions in which you are in a prison away from home, your memories are all you have; but your memories can be locked up in one place while your home is constantly evolving.”
In fact, the word “nostalgia”, associated with a sense of loss and displacement, is also a romance with a human fantasy, according to Svetlana Boym, Professor of Slavic Languages and Literature and Comparative Literature. Kurt Hugo Reisinger at the University of Harvard. Associated with the connection between personal and collective memory, nostalgia “tends to confuse his real home with an imaginary one.” In other words, people end up romanticizing reality by falling in love with ideas and memories that heavily emphasize how they remember or imagine things. It’s bittersweet. This subjective interpretation of what once was becomes the collective notion of the diaspora, one way or another supplanted, but still clinging to the dream of returning home.
“Everything that happens to everyone happens to me.” The family in the film, like many other Middle Eastern families, is scattered around the world and no longer lives under the same roof. The different positions of family members highlight the universal struggles faced by individual households: the figure of the mother who cannot survive outside her own country, the child who has no choice to return, and the father who has joined the family abroad but does not can separate from it. the reality of your country.
What does the house do?
“There is nothing tastier than home,” Hafez’s mother claims as the home is denied, affection grows. This is starting to show in every detail, such as claims that home cooking is the best. Is it really a matter of food, or is it because food connects people to the idea of home? But what does the house do? Home is more than just a place, it is an emotional idea, often associated with the saying “home is where the heart is”. Embedded in human consciousness, the home is connected to people, families and memories. Home brings us together. Home is what we know.
Taking on an even deeper meaning in the time of Covid, the concepts of separation and indefinite temporality presented in the documentary become more universal. “While in prison in America, Mohamad missed weddings, funerals and birthdays for years, and now, due to quarantine, this feeling of longing has become akin to all of us,” explains Jimmy Goldblum.
“Some people, as they move through life, rediscover the concept of home; some people never find a home after leaving theirs; and, of course, some people never leave the home they have always known,” Verlin Klinkenborg says in an article in Smithsonian Magazine. In fact, although everyone has a different attitude towards life, the concept of home is always present, and “A Broken House” seeks to shed light on the feeling of desire and homesickness, your home.
“I miss you. I miss my home”. concludes Hafez.
Check out the full list of awards and mentions collected below.
- Shortlisted for the 2022 Oscars for Best Documentary Short Film.
- NOMINATED: Cinema Eye Honors, Best Documentary Short Film
- NOMINATED for Best Short Film at the IDA Documentary Awards
- PRE-SELECTED: DOC NYC Shortlist
- WINNER: Palm Springs International Short Film Festival | Audience Award for Best Short Documentary
- VENCEDOR: Palm Springs International Short Film Festival | Premio Mozaik “Breaking Beyond”
- WINNER: Flickers Rhode Island International Film Festival | Jury Prize for Best Editing
- WINNER: RiverRun Film Festival | Jury Prize for Best Short Documentary
- WINNER: Salem Film Festival | Jury Prize for Best Short Documentary
- WINNER: SCAD Savannah Film Festival | Best Short Documentary