“The Brick House”, 15.49 min.
Sapa and Hija re-enact and re-tell short anecdotes of their lives. Coming from another country, there is a quest for belonging and the (im)possibility to completely feel at home.
This encounter with Sapa and Hija started with just one A4 paper in the academy catalogue of people who want to be an extra or actor.
As an experiment to be able to work more freely on narrations and re-enact ones autobiography, I wanted to work with an actor. Since I didn’t know many actors I searched in the catalogue of the film academy for contacts.
I wrote to eight people and Sapa was the first one who responded.
When I told Sapa in our first meeting that all of this was an experiment and that I had no clue if it would turn out to be something. Sapa replied: I will give you my time and you can ask me anything. I felt that this openness, from my side and his, was a perfect basis for this encounter.
After my first interview with Sapa I didn’t know exactly what we were going to do, I felt that if I wanted to work on narratives coming from Sapa’s biography, narratives about his family, then his dialogue partner needed to be someone he could relate to, someone who would understand where he comes from and someone he already knew. Someone with whom he could establish an intimate relationship. I asked Sapa’s to choose his dialogue partner, he chose to work with Hija.
I preferred to work in a place which felt like a home to both Sapa and Hija. We chose the apartment of Hija as a location, where we worked on Sundays on our filmic exercises.
In my first interview with Hija, he said something important:
“Swahili is the language of my mother and Dutch is the language of my survival”.
I felt that if we talk about parents, family, intimacy, the language in which these narratives would be brought from the inner world to the external, should be Swahili.
The use of Swahili has been important in our meetings. I couldn’t understand Sapa and Hija in their dialogues. It made me an outsider to the intimacy between them. It forced me to have a complete trust in what Sapa and Hija were saying. And it helped me to focus on bodily narrations, expressions and the house as a tool to bring the inner narration outside.
For a long time I had no precise idea what I was after, until the moment Hija shared a small article with me from the metro newspaper, called ‘A Dutch foreigner’. He explained the feelings he had experienced, feelings of not belonging and never completely being at home.
Then I realized that I was trying to find ways to visualize these feelings of not belonging, of residing somewhere where you might not yet completely feel at home, where you feel you can not relate to the outside world. That there are these unbreakable links to your native home, the place of your family. And that these things cannot always be told, but should be shown. Intimacy is often about ‘not explaining’.
Director, editor: Eliane Esther Bots
Cinematographer: Herman van den Bosch
With: Sapa, Hija Saleh