Wed, Oct 9, 7pm
When Mother Comes Home for Christmas
Screening and Conversation
Join film director Nilita Vachani for a screening and discussion of her documentary film, “When Mother Comes Home for Christmas,” which tells the story of a Josephine Perera, abandoned by her husband with three small children, who is one of thousands of Sri Lankan women who have left their country to earn salaries as domestic workers abroad. Sujatha Fernandes will moderate a discussion with the filmmaker following the screening.
Martin E Segal Theater
Co-sponsored by The Center for Place, Culture and Politics and the Narrating Change Seminar in the Humanities
WHEN MOTHER COMES HOME FOR CHRISTMAS… is a film about transnational migration, womens’ labour and displaced identities.
Josephine is an undocumented migrant worker from Sri Lanka who lives in Greece taking full-time care of little Isadora. Josephine’s own children have been left to a less fortunate fate in the home country, bartered between reluctant relatives and orphanages.
Finally Josephine gets her much-awaited work visa, and after an absence of ten years, is able to travel to Sri Lanka to visit her children. The meeting lasts a brief month. The camera travels with Josephine, capturing the complicated feelings of loss and longing, expectation, desire and disappointment that are the inevitable companions to this transitory union. This cinema-vérité exploration remains the much heralded and pioneering film on globalization and women’s work.
Researched, Directed, Produced and Edited by Nilita Vachani
Cinematography and Production: Vangelis Kalambakas
Sound: K. Nandha Kumar and Costas Poulantzas
16mm, documentary, 109 min, in Sinhala and English with English subtitles. A FilmSixteen production for ZDF and the Greek Film Centre with a grant from the Hubert Bals Fund. Germany/Greece, 1996
“When Mother Comes Home for Christmas… is the product of extraordinary persistence, empathy and intelligence; it opens up the emotional lives of an entire family and reveals, in heartbreakingly direct fashion, the true meaning of the phrase “global economy.
The most remarkable thing about When Mother Comes Home for Christmas…is perhaps the way Nilita Vachani’s camera stays with Josephine for the entire month in Sri Lanka, as if it were a fifth member of the family. I can think of few recent films that have offered such an intimate human drama while at the same time connecting the dots between rich and poor, First World and Third.”
Stuart Klawans writing in The Nation, May 13, 1996. Read the entire review.
“An accomplished documentary with the narrative texture and emotional involvement of a dramatic feature, When Mother Comes Home for Christmas… transforms a story of everyday hardship and sacrifice into a moving example of unsung heroism. Told with warmth, restraint and a genuine feel for the sometimes unfathomable bonds of family, this is ideal material for docufests, and quality foreign-language webs worldwide…The material’s emotional force grows steadily constructing an engrossing portrait of an uncomplaining woman shouldering formidable burdens alone.”
David Rooney, Variety, Feb 26-March 3, 1996.
“The director’s skill allows her to select different narrative rhythms, depending on the scenes she documents, while what absolutely distinguishes her work, besides her feminist and humanistic point of view, is the total respect for the people she focusses on.”
Eleni Andrikopoulou, Thessaloniki, 1996
“Cinema-verite in all its magnificence and with deeply touching scenes, which, never for a moment become melodrama. The subject: a housemaid from Sri Lanka, who lives and works in Athens, goes back to her country for Christmas. The camera follows her everywhere, in Athens, in Tinos, in Sri Lanka, and documents her life. A heart-rending film with a nobility of soul.”
Jason Triandafyllidis, Adesmeftos Tipos, 1996
- Best Documentary, Festival dei Popoli, Florence, 1996.
- Best Documentary, Festival Internazionale Cinema Delle Donne, Torino, 1997.
When Mother Comes Home For Christmas, with filmmaker Nilita Vachani
Time: 7:00 pm - 9:30 pm
Location: Martin E. Segal Theatre
Address: 365 Fifth Avenue, New York 10016 (View Map)