I for India


Optimistic young doctor Yash Pal Suri emigrated from India to England in 1965, where shoddy phone lines and the tedium of letter writing inspired him to purchase Super-8 cameras, projectors, and reel-to-reels for staying in touch with the fam back home. Chronologically laying out four decades’ worth of these cine-dispatches as an epically uncomfortable exchange between her father and his disapproving parents, Yash’s daughter Sandhya Suri strikes humanist gold in her feature-filmmaking debut. Dr. Suri’s recordings wax cathartic about the immigrant experience, from his skewed sense of cultural identity to the casual racism of Brits who refuse to spell or pronounce his name correctly, and the director smartly grounds the story with historical context by interspersing timely, increasingly hostile BBC TV clips about the growing Indian populace. I for India isn’t content just to mold years of personal footage into a fascinating drama, as we’ve already seen in such camcorder-obsessed tales of domestic dysfunction as Capturing the Friedmans and Tarnation. Winding down as the modern-day Yash and his wife speak to another daughter—displaced in Australia—via webcam (upgrade!), the film manages to lyrically explore the meaning of filial responsibility with a lasting but unsentimental tenderness. November seems late enough to call this one of the richest documentaries of the year.