Home yet far away: Searching for the Feminine in Iran and the U.S.

Hit by U.S. threats of military action against Iran and her mother’s death, Iranian-born filmmaker Sabereh Kashi travels over several years between the radical collective where she lives in Oakland to her childhood home in Tehran, to seek reconciliation with her father, her country and warring sides of herself.

Iranian-born filmmaker Sabereh Kashi feels despair and disillusionment when her adopted U.S. home threatens military action against Iran. When she learns her beloved mother has died, she makes a difficult journey home, intent on reconciling her identity as an immigrant from a traditional Persian family living an alternative life in California. She heads home a broken spirit – the life she sought in her 20s has eluded her and she is divorced and lonely. As she struggles for the acceptance of her father, a distant authority figure, his harsh treatment gradually gives way to a deep understanding and respect for her dual life.

The narrative begins and ends with a parent’s death, and is structured by transformative visits to Iran. When she first returns, Sabereh’s father insists that she stay or go and “stop clowning” in her life. Things come to a head, but he surprises her by accepting that she come home for six months a year.

Over 5 years, Sabereh witnesses significant cultural events in Iran that help her gain perspective. These culminate with a Shia grieving ritual after her father’s death. By this time, we have seen her father warm to the camera and his daughter. He even offers to dance for the camera.

Sabereh returns each time to new faces in Oakland. What feels at first like a life filled with insecurity becomes more fulfilling as she bonds with housemates and becomes a guardian figure.

The contrast between Sabereh’s two homes is stark. In her parents’ home, where she was born and lived through the Iran/Iraq war, her father rules over a house filled with objects he hoards from his past. In Oakland, Sabereh crosses paths with more than 100 transient residents. The old redwood house is adorned with stained glass windows and filled with objects left by unknown travelers.

Sabereh’s journey is intensely personal, exploring the war between multiple layers of her identity including the war between her feminine and masculine sides. Her friendships with queer and transgender people in her Oakland home force her to question the binary division she had accepted. When her father dies, Sabereh has found peace within herself, and between Iran and her adopted home, and the viewer has profound questions about identity, and the immigrant experience.

Directed by Sabereh Kashi