I realize I'm probably setting myself up for a fair amount of crap by opening a review with a quote from Garden State, but for all of the not-so-transparent emotional manipulation director Zach Braff indulges in, there was one line of dialogue that's stuck with me ever since I saw the film two years ago and not so coincidentally spoken by Braff's character, Andrew Largeman: "You know that point in your life when you realize that the house you grew up in isn't really your home anymore ... all of a sudden, even though you have some place to put your shit, that idea of home is gone ... or maybe it's like this rite of passage ... you will never have that feeling again until you create a new idea of home for yourself, for your kids, for the family you start; it's like a cycle or something ... maybe that's what family really is ... a group of people that miss the same imaginary place."
It's this piece of dialogue that first struck me upon viewing Sandhya Suri's moving, fascinating examination of precisely what the concept of home means to her family, split as it is between India and England -- stylistically reminiscent of Jonathan Caouette's devastating Tarnation (but nowhere near as emotionally draining), I For India pieces together four decades of filmed and aurally recorded letters that paint a portrait of a family separated by geography but bound together by love. Sandhya's father, Yash Pal Suri, moved his family to the United Kingdom in the early Sixties, but not before purchasing a pair of Super 8 cameras, projectors and tape recorders so that he could keep in touch with his parents and siblings, back home in India.
While Sandhya traces her family's correspondence, she also charts the rise in immigrants to England's shores, splicing vintage news reports in amid her family's more personal clips. So as not to spoil the cumulative impact of Suri's film, I'll leave off from divulging what transpires in the remainder of the film, except to say that it's wholly poignant and ironically poetic, particularly in context of the film's early scenes. I For India indeed addresses that thorny issue of what constitutes home and family, often to poignant effect -- it's very difficult to remain unmoved by the documentary's final moments, which subtly drives home Suri's thesis without clobbering the viewer over the head. I For India is a skillful look at the ties that bind and that, sometimes, against our will, must be undone in order to grow as human beings.
I For India is presented in a perfectly acceptable 1.33:1 fullscreen transfer that looks clean and mostly crisp, save for the instances of vintage footage, which is accompanied by the usual visual defects (grain, scratches and softness). On the whole, Suri's film looks very good.
As with the visuals, the audio end of things is unspectacular but solid -- a clean, distortion-free Dolby 2.0 stereo soundtrack that suffers from slight hiss, but provides forced, very legible English subtitles for the more muffled sections. Again, it's serviceable but unremarkable.
No bonus features are included, save for 40 informational screens about Mongrel Media's "Festival Collection."
I For India addresses that thorny issue of what constitutes home and family, often to poignant effect -- it's very difficult to remain unmoved by the documentary's final moments, which subtly drives home director Sandhya Suri's thesis without clobbering the viewer over the head. I For India is a skillful look at the ties that bind and that, sometimes, against our will, must be undone in order to grow as human beings. Recommended.