The other Homeland is all about identity

Mohamed Hamidi’s directorial debut Homeland manages to be a light-hearted and sensitive tale of belonging.



A lot of us are likely guilty of responding to the question, “Where are you from?” with some kind of song and dance about our ancestry or wholesale claiming to belong to a specific heritage of a country that perhaps we’ve never even set foot in. Mohamed Hamidi’s directorial debut, Homeland, addresses this problematic identity crisis head-on through the story of Farid Hadji (Tewfik Jallab from 1994’s Killer Kid).

Farid is 26 years old, born and raised in France to immigrant parents who made the journey from Algiers after their marriage. He identifies as Algerian, although he’s never been to his parents’ homeland, and he’s constantly reminded of his heritage through the education and history provided by his family.

After  Farid’s father’s health starts to deteriorate, the family receives further troubling news that the home his father built stone by stone in a small village in Algiers is under threat of being demolished for a government project. As his father is not fit to travel, Farid is asked to go to the homeland as he is the eldest son, to try and stop the demolition from happening, and  to settle some of his father’s affairs.

The trip starts out harmlessly enough, and Farid tries to find simple comforts in a cup of coffee or familiarity with some of his family members. But after an especially messy night out with a cousin, he wakes to find that his passport is gone, stolen by a member of his own family.

Farid tries in desperation to get his passport back, and his family begs him not to contact the authorities in the hopes that they can sort out the “misunderstanding” without getting outside help — this is where he starts to understand and observe the reality of his adopted homeland and the heritage that he’d always claimed ownership of.

The film, which was included this year at Cannes in the “Séances Spéciales” selection, manages to address and hint at truths without being preachy or heavy-handed. It causes reflection without alienating its audience through the specifics of Farid’s story. For a film that deals with so many big topics — family, belonging and the bureaucratic nightmare of trying to create a better life — it manages to be sensitive and fair in its portrayals, allowing it to have a light and at times comedic tone.

I couldn’t help leaving the theatre reflecting on my own heritage claims. ■

Homeland opens Friday, Sept. 13

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