HOME AGAIN: The Anatomy of a Film – Birth, Bought, and Broadcast

By Alicia Sealey

HOME AGAIN’s birth was as a documentary in 2005. However, by its world premiere, broadcast debut at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), it had evolved into a film about three fictional, composite characters who tell realistic stories about the hardships of being deported back home again.

This film enjoyed two TIFF 2012 public screenings with both being sold out; a good indicator of audience interest in the film’s subject matter.

HOME AGAIN (101 min; Canada; English; 2012; not yet officially rated) This is the latest feature-length film from Gemini-winning director, Sudz Sutherland. His wife, and Gemini-winning writer, Jennifer Holness, co-wrote this film with him. When asked about its inspiration, Sutherland says, “It was about people getting deported who we knew. And then having them, a few years later, end up dead. I mean, this should not be a death sentence. And that is increasingly what is happening to people … especially young people who have no knowledge of the islands where they are now living: having been born there, but left at a very young age … and now they are kicked back … deported … and they have no knowledge of the place. They don’t know the language, the culture. They don’t know the (local) runnings. And then (by consequence), they end up as murder victims.”

Sutherland and Holness travelled to Jamaica in 2005 where they interviewed over 40 deportees. Says Sutherland, “These are people who are born in Jamaica but they lived in the US, the UK, and Canada. As we started getting their stories down, we decided to synthesize these stories … make composite characters … and to take these fact-based stories and turn them into a fictionalized accounts … because we felt that we could reach more and do it in a more entertaining fashion meanwhile getting the issues out.”

Like many films, the city the film is set in is not the location that the film is shot in. Though set in Jamaica, principal photography was done in and around Port of Spain, Trinidad.

“We brought down the heads of the depts. and their seconds,” says Sutherland. “We were able to sublimate the rest of the crews from Trinidad’s local talent. We also brought down a bunch of international actors: American actors, Canadian actors, Jamaican actors. And then we were able to sublimate the rest of the cast from Trinidad. They have a lot of talented crew and cast there.

“We shot for 26 days in Trinidad,” continued Sutherland. “Our last shoot day was ‘Fantastic Friday’ (= Carnival Friday). Funnily enough, a person who was supposed to be doing our EMT (emergency medical technician) … he never showed on that day. He called to say he was coming, but did not show. However, he was at the (local) Soca Monarch Competition later that same night. So, enough said about that!”

Sutherland and Holness relocated to Trinidad for three months from December 2011 to February 2012 for the preparation and production of the film. They brought their three daughters down from Canada with them; enrolling them in an all-girls’ public school while there. Once production wrapped, the entire family partook in the local T&T Carnival festivities prior to their return back to Canada.

When asked if he would ever go back to Trinidad & Tobago to film another movie, Sutherland says, “Most definitely!”

At TIFF 2012, the rights to HOME AGAIN were bought by Entertainment One (www.entertainmentonegroup.com). They also secured the rights to this film’s international distribution.

Though our Caribbean community has many valuable stories still to be told, with several film-makers doing their best to capture them, the only thing major distribution houses are interested in is the bottom-line question of ‘will this story/film that we just invested in … make back our initial investment plus a profit?’

Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry, Will Smith and Jada-Pinket Smith, Spike Lee … all of them have production companies that produce and/or distribute product for TV and/or film. And though they are all Black entrepreneurs, it is the American green colour-of-money that each corporation seeks in profit at the end of the day allegedly.

At the time of this writing, no info was available about theatrical cinema debut dates for HOME AGAIN. Oh gorm. Pity! However, you can keep abreast with this film via Facebook at www.Facebook.com/HomeAgainFilm or at www.HungryEyes.ca.

As I wind down this article, did you notice those three salient words that deal with the anatomy of a film? Birth, bought and broadcast? Though this article focused on an independent film, those three words are golden to the process that all films: (i) a relevant and/or catchy storyline/script, (ii) a flexible production budget, (iii) star actors, (iv) a mammoth target audience, (v) a distribution house’s muscle … etc. etc. etc. All of that expensive effort is to sway YOU to go out to the cinema and see their collective effort. So you see, you are important to the process too!

Therefore, if you go and see films that tell your stories in the cinema en masse, then the afore-mentioned writers, directors, actors, distributers, et al might direct their considerable creative efforts towards producing your stories. And wouldn’t that be a refreshing change?

Alicia Sealey is a freelance journalist and broadcaster based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Email: asealey@the-wire.com.