A Broken House


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

A Broken House
"It's because Goldblum is so ambitious in his attempts to capture multiple ideas that this feels a bit scattered"

Perhaps surprisingly, the word that Jimmy Goldblum's film about Syrian architect Mohamad Hafez hinges on is "hiraeth" - not from his Syria, or his more recently adopted homeland the United States but Welsh. Although it has no direct translation in English it is a yearning homesickness for a home that it may well no longer be possible to return to. Hafez explains why the word is so resonant to him, given that if he was to return to Syria, he would be conscripted to the Army, which makes it impossible for him to go back.

Goldblum is attempting a lot with this Oscar shorlisted documentary short, at once trying to showcase and explain the motivations behind the melancholic miniature recreations of Damascene homes Hafez began to create in order to deal with his sense of loss at the same time as exploring the fractures that have occurred in Hafez's family and are not uncommon as people flee conflict.

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"I took to my models like an explosion," he says, but the film itself feels torn between exploring this creative process via interviews and considering the way that Hafez and his father have found themselves, both living in America, separated from his mother, who can't bring herself to leave Syria permanently, via more observational documentary. It is in this latter, fly-on-the-wall element, that the film is at its strongest, bringing home a palpable sense of the importance of "home" itself. It's because Goldblum is so ambitious in his attempts to capture multiple ideas that this feels a bit scattered - but that in itself is an indicator that he could easily turn his hand to longer form films that would allow him to interrogate these complex themes more thoroughly.

Reviewed on: 06 Jan 2022
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A Broken House packshot
A profile of Syrian emigre to the US Mohamed Hafez, the miniature models he creates and the refugee experience.

Director: Jimmy Goldblum

Year: 2020

Runtime: 20 minutes

Country: US, Lebanon


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