“To me it really sort of evolved into a story that was about the homesickness that refugees and immigrants experience,” argues Emmy winner Jimmy Goldblum about his film, “A Broken House.” The film about the refugee crisis was recently shortlisted for Best Documentary Short at the 2022 Oscars. Check out our exclusive video interview above.
“A Broken House” follows artist and architect Mohamad Hafez, who came to the United States on a single-entry visa which has prevented him from returning to his native Syria. Feeling isolated from his family and culture, Hafez creates stunning miniatures of his neighborhood in Damascus. The film documents Hafez’s feelings of loneliness and isolation, as well as the devastating emotional impact of refugeeism on families.
Goldblum first met Hafez was working on another series about architecture and found his story immediately compelling, especially against the backdrop of the Trump administration’s proposed Muslim ban in 2017. After many years of trying to get the film made, Goldblum got an assist from an unexpected source. “By like a pure act of kismet, we met the former Congressman Dick Gephardt, who at that time was just apoplectic about the state of immigration in the country and willing to produce things that were humanizing in a very dehumanizing climate,” he says.
The film tracks Hafez’s inner turmoil as Syria falls further into civil war. The artist releases his frustrations on his models, damaging and sometimes destroying them. Goldblum says that capturing those moments on film was unexpected. “That was just something that erupted out of him,” he explains. “It was therapy that he didn’t know was therapy. So I really wanted to give him space and be there with him.”
Goldblum says that the trust between him and Hafez led to one of the film’s most heartbreaking moments. His parents left Syria and lived in the United States for years, but his mother became homesick and eventually returned to Syria. The family has not been back together in the same place in more than a decade. In one scene, Hafez visits his mother in Beirut– the only place he can visit with her due to his inability to return to Syria– and begs her to come back to the United States with him but she refuses. Goldblum talks about the significance of being able to capture such a raw emotional moment. “I don’t if I necessarily believe in luck–you create your luck,” he argues. “I just think that I had done a lot of work to build intimacy with Mohamad and he felt comfortable having conversations by the end of the shoot that he hadn’t had in his whole life.”
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