SIFF Encore - My Home, My Heaven by Mohd Eshyam

My Home My Heaven was my favourite at Kinofest this year actually. This is the second time I am watching it and definitely understand the story better than the first time. It also helps me remember what I liked about the film - honest feelings and vulnerability.

My Home My Heaven is about a teenager and his adjustment back to his family and religious life after his release from the prison. The story is circularly structured with a smoking conversation with a prison mate marking the beginning and ending of the film. At the beginning between them, the protagonist is awaiting his release. On the day he leaves, he looks back at his mates struggling with their push-up punishments while he heads for the exit. Then through an interesting transition playing on the similarity between the push-up position and the religious prostrate position, we at the mosque. So the concept of the transition somehow hints at the idea of religious constriction as compared to the prison.

He meets his father who is a leader at the mosque. Then after a brief acknowledgement, he returns home to spend a tender moment with his mother. In the scene with his mother and younger brother, you get a sense that still water runs deep. They communicate with hmms and the occasional monosyllabic terms, the rest are gestures that are simple yet telling. While all these were very heart-warming to watch, it was a tremendous pity about the poor lighting in the indoor scenes.
From the house, the scene returns to the mosque where the teenager has decided to work for his father. In this scene, where he is sweeping fallen leaves in the mosque. Once again, Eshyam demonstrates the magic of silent communication. In a moment when father sees the son dililgently sweeping, he strolls over. Then, with a look and momentary twitching of his body, he registers an gesture of approval. It is not sweet but has the ability to exorcise any ill feelings they had mutually. But as the story goes, trouble has to rear its head again and it is in the form of his younger brother. They meet outside the mosque and his younger brother proudly shares with him his `courageous' acts of stealing motorcycle spare parts and selling them for money. We are not sure if he is influenced again but it gives enough reason to pre-empt a soon-to-come disaster.

They continue their banter in the mosque. A donation box near them accidentally falls off the table and out spills the notes and coins. Between them, one loses himself to temptation while the other battles his own moral conscience. While the young man decides not to take the money, he finds it difficult to fend off his younger brother's request to keep the notes for him. But they run out of time because their father soon emerges down the stairs and smells a rat. Interrogating both brothers, he demand them to empty their pockets. With this, there was no escaping. The story then brings us back to prison and we even return to a familiar smoking scene. In this scene, his mate brings out the issue of the younger brother who if really at fault and asks him why he did not attempt to explain to his father the truth.
`He(father) will not understand' he says. Though the camera pulled away a tad too fast for that thought-inducing statement, the meaning of it still grew on me. It condenses his feelings of being a misunderstood son and in an ironical way, sheds light on how misinformed the father is despite being one who devotes himself to religion and all the values it represents. With this film, Eshyam maturely blurs the lines between right and wrong, good and bad, allowing us to understand the nuances in a journey of redepmtion.
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