Interview: Director Sudz Sutherland speaks about 'Home Again'
An article in the newspaper published nearly 10 years ago spurred Sudz Sutherland to action.
Alongside his writing and producer partner Jennifer Holness, now his wife, Sutherland learned the story of a Jamaican man who was deported back to his native land where he failed to assimilate, and after falling into a bad crowd, ended up murdered.
“We thought we should go down and look at the story,” explains Sutherland, a Canadian filmmaker whose has directed miniseries, TV shows, documentaries, and shorts. “It was a Jamaican Diaspora; we interviewed over 40 deportees from the U.S., U.K., and Canada. I met people where it was like looking in a mirror, some of them were completely Canadian, who went to the Eaton Centre, who went to Scarborough Mall.”
Sutherland, himself of Jamaican descent and born in Scarborough, Ontario, began to put together the stories into a dramatic film. Home Again was the result, a film that debuted at TIFF last year, which follows the narratives of a trio of different deportees forced to start their lives anew in a world they know nothing of.
“We thought about doing a documentary, but the stories were just all the same,” explains Sutherland, who ultimately fashioned the three characters – a single Toronto mother (Tatyana Ali), a New Yorker with gang ties (Lyriq Bent), and a young British brat (Stephan James)—out of the desperate tales he heard.
The result is a harrowing tale about struggling to survive in a land you know by name only. The three characters are sent there after having committed minor offenses, some out of youthful indiscretion or naivete, and made to create a life amid poverty, desperation, and crime. The characters are not completely innocent, especially Everton, who comes from a life of privilege and immediately spends his money on partying and drugs.
“We wanted to make flawed characters, actually human beings,” says Sutherland. “We wanted a realistic portrayal to make people engage, not some golden-hued halo around these characters.”
“There is no one who is a true innocent, we wanted to look at human conditions and people who are flawed, warts and all.”
While the film is a dramatic telling to be sure, featuring some brutal violence, degradation, and despair, there is a political message behind it. Wielded forcibly yet briefly, Sutherland offers a message at the beginning and end of the film, condemning a policy he sees as backward, one that forces those who have a made a life in Canada and elsewhere to live in a place that is simply foreign, and what’s more, dangerous.