Returning to a “home” they hardly know after being deported from their adopted countries for minor criminal offences, three people from very different backgrounds try to make a new life for themselves, in Jamaica in “Home Again,” a gutsy drama from writer-director Sudz Sutherland.
The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 12 and will be shown on Friday, September 14.
Between 1999 and 2001, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States passed legislation which mandated that any foreign-born person convicted of a criminal offence could be deported to their country of origin.
This led to the expulsion and deportation of many who had left those countries virtually in infancy, and had no knowledge of the nations they were being sent back to. The blowback from this policy is the subject of Home Again.
Sutherland follows three characters, now back “home” in Jamaica and struggling to find their place in what is effectively a foreign country. Everton (Stephan James) is a spoiled British teenager deported over possession of a few joints, an offence which wouldn’t even rate a mention in some countries’ criminal codes.
Young mother Marva (Tatyana Ali), deported because she foolishly transported a suitcase full of contraband for her no-account, now long-gone boyfriend, struggles to re-unite with her children and deal with her new home life, which includes a furious aunt who feels she’s being imposed upon and an uncle who wants Margo there for less than altruistic reasons.
Finally, there’s Dunston (Lyriq Bent), who appears to have a shadier past than the other two and who quickly obtains employment in the Kingston underworld as a bodyguard for a vicious drug lord known as The Don, who also serves as a kind of godfather to the community, resolving disputes between neighbours and rendering sage judgements with a Solomon-like air.
As these characters attempt to navigate their way in a world they don’t understand, Sutherland and his co-writer Jennifer Holness subtly manoeuvre them towards a path to (some sort of) redemption exploring the obliviousness of the “First World” to conditions in the “Third” (most pointedly in a scene where Everton’s mother, played by the great CCH Pounder, meets a drunken tourist who, from the vantage of the hotel pool, deems Jamaica a paradise).
“ Home Again begins, quite rightly, as a critique of a catastrophic and fundamentally racist policy, but by the end it’s as much about the courage of its principals as they attempt to carve out new lives for themselves,” reads promotional material of the film.