Home & Away

Ann Van de Vyvere


Imagine the following situation: your house is about to explode and you have exactly three seconds to save one item. Which precious item do you rescue from the fire? This film zooms in on 10 individuals and the items they cannot do without. Collecting objects is one of those things that separate man from animal. Every human being has baggage, despite his or her origins or destination. Humans collect items to safeguard their identity. Our favourite objects can recount our lives or harbour beautiful memories. They can even be a metaphor for thoughts or creeds that we hold dear.
The chosen items disclose amazing and compelling stories about the 10 individuals. The only thing the owners have in common is that they are all modern nomads. In other words, they have no permanent address and are always ‘on the go’. In the documentary, we learn that for some people, the nomad lifestyle is anything but a personal choice. They can be homeless, drifters or refugees. Others such as expats, newcomers and adventurers simply seek excitement. Activists choose to migrate constantly for their ideals and beliefs. Although the characters are diverse, they each have their own prized possession that makes them feel at home wherever they go. Home is a place where someone lives and feels safe. It is the centre of a household, of important relationships and interests.
The chosen objects in the documentary embody all these concepts. This makes them irreplaceable to their owners. Lies for instance, always carries a blender in her bag. Since she is currently living in three places, mixing soup is a ritual that helps her to feel at home wherever she is. Khaled is a Palestine refugee who seeks comfort in his keffiyeh at times when he feels down. This garment was made famous by the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. The scarf reminds Khaled of his home country and his mother. Stephan inherited a traditional mask from his father. However, the higher social status it represents is not acknowledged in the 'Klein Kasteeltje'.
Hamou on the other hand, claims strange objects and stores them in the building where he is squatting. In his room, he makes the objects perform like puppets in his own private theatre. Jean Marie is a Rwandese refugee who believes that home is where your… corpse is. Which is why he carries a self-made coffin wherever he goes.
The documentary introduces these remarkable individuals to us through their objects. Gradually, we see the construction of an exhibit in the Jubelpark Museum in Brussels, which houses many other objects. The exhibit is the foundation of the film. Our characters work towards it, though it is in no means the goal or core concept of the film. Home and Away is a film about home, objects and people who do not have a fixed address. The documentary tells the story of the characters. At times those stories can be hilarious, moving or even heartbreaking. It is also an impression of what it means to be on the road all the time: the migrating, the moving and the freedom. It questions what people around the globe understand as living conditions, not just physically but mentally as well.