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House of Sand and Fog - Vadim Perelman Q&A



Compiled by: Jack Foley

Q. We understand from the production notes that you identified, to some extent, with the experience of the characters in the film, in as much with your experience of coming to Canada, I believe. How important was that to you, initially, in wanting to tell the story?
A.
Well I think initially, that's what hooked me, because I understood this world, and I understood the world of the immigrant, and the world of being an alien in a country; the misconceptions, the mis-communications and mis-judgements that goes on with these people. And the loss of pride that happens when you lose your land and you move to a country where you have no land, and you're living on borrowed land.
But also there's a real flip-side to it, in that Cathy in the movie, the Jennifer Connelly character, she's a refugee as well, as much as Behrani's character, she's a refugee from her own family.
Ultimately, what attracted me to the story was the incredible emotional impact that it had on me.

Q. Do you find any differences between the way people respond the movie, either culturally, or between the sexes?
A.
I think it's different, but never consistently. I would expect a lot of men would side with Behrani. It's a bold statement, but I would expect a lot of women would be a little more sympathetic towards Cathy. But, quite often, the women judged Cathy harder than the men did, and quite often vice versa with Behrani. But I didn't really see it across sex lines.
Across cultural lines, I haven't spoken to enough outsiders of this country. There were a few Middle Eastern people that came to a screening and said, 'oh my God, you've just captured this perfectly', but how they judge the characters? I think it's up to the individual.

Q. There are some very powerful themes running through the movie, but the catalyst proves something quite trivial. So can I ask you, do you open your mail?
A.
That's funny, because in every story, there's always an insignificant event, that sets all these things in motion. It's definitely not a story with a moral that you should always open your mail. It has greater, more universal meanings.
But I've known people who have gone through a deep depression, you just cocoon yourself, wherever you are. You know, you don't shower for eight days, and you do not want missives from the outside world entering that safe zone, so I can completely understand that; and not judge it.

Q. You talk about a lot of the issues affecting the movie, but when I saw it, I thought the government had a big part to play. How much was your movie about this aspect of life?
A.
I think you're right, but it's just one aspect of it. I think the thing that drives these people are their characters, as in Greek tragedies, the fatal flaw of their characters, that either causes their demise or the demise of others. That's what it's about.
All the other things, the mail, the government, or the fact that Behrani arrives home at a certain time, or that Cathy arrives just as the buyers are there, or that other cops just happen to be at the civic centre when he calls for police, all those things are Gods. The important thing here is what is driving these people, what's inside them, what demons and what angels are inside these people driving them to do what they do? That's the story; that's the theatre. Everything else is contrivances.

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