Coming Home (Film Review – Helsinki-Tehran, written and directed by Azar Saiyar)

When we were kids we would wait impatiently for my mom to come home from a night’s work in the morning.  Naturally, we swarmed her.

“Let me come home,” she would say, kicking off her clogs and removing her badge.

I always thought she meant she needed to take a shower to get the hospital smell off of her, which was probably part of it, and then years later I thought she meant she had just walked in so accosting her on the threshold wasn’t ideal.

My sister in law once told me she values her drive home from work.  If she was able to teach near her home she would miss it, the chance to unpack her thoughts from the day, to be silent after teaching elementary school children all day.  To switch from her teacher self to her self-self (my words, not hers, I promise she is much more erudite).

Mom has a “hospital voice” and I think I have a “work voice” too.  And a “court voice.”  And the voice when no one is listening.

I think I like that last one best.

When you’re always at work, there is no coming home in the classic drive home sense but instead I have moments, glimmers, of coming home and they happen randomly.  Sometimes it is late at night when I finally flick off the light in my home office/laundry room.  Sometimes it is the sound of my husband’s key in the door signalling that I can come home too.

And sometimes a song or a book or a film brings me home.

My cousin, Azar Saiyar, is a filmmaker.  She looks at things through her artistic lens and I think to myself the patience to view the world in vignettes is a gift.  Knowing she is a filmmaker but never having sought out her work (I don’t know why), I stumbled upon a film she wrote and directed featuring her father, my uncle, Aliakbar Saiyar.

Helsinki-Tehran from Azar Saiyar on Vimeo.

My Uncle Ali died about 4 years ago.  I remember getting the news and rushing to the carpet in our home that he had sent to my father, who gave it to me years later for my 18th birthday.  I touched the tassels, remembering how he would sit in our house and braid them absentmindedly on a visit, breaking only to gesture with his hands as he spoke animatedly to my father in Azari.

I moved my fingertips over the carpet and really felt the sensation of the silk beneath my fingers. My ears roared in that way they do when you have to feel something physical and not just emotionally because of the weight of it.  Thinking about how experience and memory can tie us together but here was something tangible that I could do to act as its own remembrance.

Azar made a film featuring my uncle that I watched this morning but it was made in 2009.  It is about being home, wanting to go home, perhaps taking our home with us through stories and dreams and memories.  It is the story of every immigrant who listens to the music of their childhood, who shares their stories with their children and grandchildren.

Watching it made me feel like coming home.

To know as the postscript to my Uncle Ali’s dreams of going to visit Iran again from Finland that he died there unexpectedly on a visit there is all the more heartbreaking.  Azar’s short film is beautiful and lyrical. I appreciate it so much as a parent, as a niece, and as someone that wonders about her own place in the world.

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