East End Film Festival: House Without Roof – Review

The idea of family is one tricky beast to navigate. There are people around you who are intrinsically linked to you, no matter how hard you try to sahek them off. Bound by blood (that sounded more Gothic than I thought,) and diligent with duty, you could clash and bicker personally but still have to be lumped together. Of course, once you hit a sweet and legal age, you can abscond from your loved ones and live life according to who you are, only seeing the family at important holidays, sometimes birthdays, and nearly always at funerals.

Movies have always thrived upon this,conflict, looking at layered love and intimate tensions as family members quarrel over a tragedy. One such movie, House Without Roof, takes a look at strained sibling relationships in a bitter road trip movie .

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Directed by Soleen Yousef, the film revolves around three siblings, Liya, Jan, and Alan who were born in the Kurdish area of Iraq.  However, due to the political climate of their country, the trio were brought up in Germany by their loving mother. When she dies, the three are pulled together unwillingly to carry out her last wishes – to be buried by her husband who as murdered in the Saddam Hussein regime. As they embark on an a perilous journey across Kurdistan, their differences and views collide with the tense backdrop.

There is a spiritual accompaniment here to Richard Linklater’s Last Flag Flying as loved ones cart a dead body across a country despite protestations and strained relations. Except the film is a lot dryer in comedy (as in, it is pretty much non-existent,) and rife with social-commentary, religious and political views, and sibling rivalry.  Each component here has spent time carving out their own paths alone and separate from the war-torn culture that their mother was well-versed in. This lends itself to an intriguing and poignant film, one that balances many different components. Youseef’s work here captures the beauty as well as the macabre join to make an wrought and ultimately humanistic piece.

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The structure is somewhat simple but the clash of history, politics, and culture burns with the Kurdish sun, present as two languages weave and entwine. The growth away of Kurdistan is more present in Liya and Alan; a woman who has adapted to more independence and a young man whose enjoyed a boozy freedom in Germany whilst Jan has attempted a more serious life as the eldest. As they explore a more traditional world and combat against their family, it is within these confrontations where the film thrives.

Actors Mina Sadic, Sasun Sayan, and Murat Seven are fantastic to watch in these roles. Yousef has developed an endearing film that, albeit slightly too long, drama that is a grand depiction of the intimacies and pain between siblings.

House Without Roof premieres at East End Film Festival on 15th July 

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