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MOVIE REVIEW

Immigration, through the lens of one Indian family

May 12, 2008|Mark Olsen | Special to The Times

"I for India" is a surprisingly delicate, quietly emotional documentary look at the experiences of one Indian family that immigrated to England in the 1960s.

When the family of the film's director, Sandhya Suri, settled in England, her father bought two sets of Super-8 cameras and projectors and reel-to-reel audio tape players. One he sent home to India, the other he kept. The audio-visual letters he and his relatives shared over the decades are the basis for the engaging "I for India."

Suri rounds out her family's experiences by including archival news and documentary footage to provide a context for the larger currents and attitudes regarding immigrant life. In so doing, Suri is able to take an intimate look at the immigrant experience, while also grasping the bigger picture of broader cultural changes.

From home movies to home video, the film also traces changes in how people use technology to communicate with one another.

Toward the film's end, one of Suri's sisters moves to Australia. This time, the family stays in touch via online video.

It is no small irony that Super-8, that democratic film format that predates digital video by decades, has become a shorthand for the fuzzy, nostalgia-tinged twilight of memory. In countless films, Super-8 footage is used to signify not only home movies but also cherished times gone by and innocence past. Suri is able to shrewdly play off this accepted meaning of the format's grain and murky colors to create a loving swirl of fashions and feelings.

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"I for India." Unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 10 minutes. In English and Hindi with English subtitles. At Laemmle Grand 4-Plex, 345 S. Figueroa St., downtown Los Angeles, (213) 617-0268.

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