Home Again is the story of three people, Jamaican by birth but having lived their entire lives in other countries, are who are deported for getting into trouble with the law. A mother from Canada, a student from England, and a man recently released from prison in the US are all sent “back” to a country they barely know. It is now available on DVD and streaming. I spoke with the distinguished actress CCH Pounder, who plays the mother of the student who is sent to the other side of the world.
Why did you want to be in this movie?
I’m really interested in highlighting stories from the Caribbean and it is a good script. It’s the part of the world that I’m from, a part of the world that I rarely see discussed or not well discussed, certainly not seen in the cinemas. I wanted to be part of something that went beyond ‘The Harder They Come.” And so I’ve been looking out for directors and writers who want to highlight that region.
You took on a part with a lot of challenges. For important scenes, you’re on the phone with your son, which means you’re responding to someone who is not in the same room.
Even though the role itself is rather small, and you don’t see much displayed on film, she has to create a back story of somebody who has raised someone and then she’s going to lose them in an instant. It’s precipitated by her desire to teach him a lesson. Everything kind of goes to hell in a handbasket really rather quickly and completely changes their lives and you have to create that in a few scenes mostly on phone calls.
You are with your son in the scene with the lawyer though, and I thought that was a very, very powerful scene.
I think one of the things that I’m really aware of, is sitting in front of people of authority, particularly one here from the third world country where you give them the benefit of the doubt at all times. So if you sit in front of the doctor and he says, you’re dying of cancer and you have three days to live then you go home, you sell everything. And it’s like that kind of voice of authority. My character has to kind of illustrate that to her son. “I’m going to fix that mister,” you know, that kind of thing. I think a lot of people know what that is when you do it. And also I’ve been in that situation myself, with my immigration papers. You know having to sit and keep a flat face while bad news is being given to you and some of it is acting and some of it pulling from somebody else’s history.
Where that person has all of the power and you just really need them not to be threatened by you in anyway?
Tell me a little bit about what some of the challenges are for a character like the one you play, where she is an immigrant and she’s trying to raise the child in a different culture and give him a sense of what his own culture is like.
Well actually, she doesn’t give him a sense of what his own culture is like, which is really interesting because I will say that the biggest challenge for most people who immigrate is that they have to hit the ground running, they have to find housing, they have to find a job, and they have to start earning a wage very quickly and that wage probably is not much so they’re going to look for two and three jobs. So you spend a lot of your life just saying “Did you behave today, did you take care of this?” And there’s not much you know, “Ah! How was your day?”, “Let’s watch this, let’s eat together”. There is that pressure of maintenance and so when your kid gets into trouble, you try to slam them hard like you could, “This could really be a problem. This could be this, this could be that”. And I think that the talk would affect lawyer and while all those kids get slapped on the wrist where he’s just part of the joyride, which most teenagers around the world are entitled to do if they belong. That’s what would have happened; he would have had a slap on the wrist and said “You see? If you don’t do that, such and such will happen” but instead, it was “bam”, this happens. And it turns your entire world upside down and that it’s not much different about black children living in United States, black young man and their mother constantly hankering, just hammering home. “Don’t go there, don’t do this, don’t hang with them” endlessly hear it and you know.
What do you hope people will talk about on the way home after seeing this film?
Fantastic question, because, I don’t think that this should be the only film about this story but I think this film opens up a dialogue and it has a kind of a universal flavor to it. There are Eastern Europeans that are sitting in Mexico, there are Mexicans sitting in America, there are Jamaicans, Nigerians, etc. sitting in all these ports, working, raising children, papers, no papers. There are refugees coming in. Life is changing and migrations are moving, and the world is changing in general and these stopgaps of papers are going to be in the end all of things. I thought it’s really important that people start to have a dialogue about what do you do with your children who are basically, the children of the country, simply without papers? Are you going to take them on? Are you going to give them a drivers license? Are you going to make them legal? Are you going to have them become productive members of the society in which they were raised, the only society that they know? So it has a long way to go in terms of what the conversation could be and I’m hoping that this tiny little film creates a potboiler. I actually witnessed that we screened at the British Museum in London last week and I was there and you know three or four days later, the feedback was, they are still talking about it and I think the cross section of immigrants who were watching in the room who considered themselves British was, it was quite an eye opener to them.
Once I said yes in terms of participation, for me there was not a huge challenge. This is not an unfamiliar story to me. I come from an immigrant family. I know about who has papers, and who doesn’t, and who forged them, and who didn’t, and who survived and who got to step back. I mean it is really not far from my tree. The apple just barely rolled. And so this is wonderful that somebody wrote it and they interviewed forty to fifty deportees in Jamaica in terms of how they got here and all the things and places they came from. And so this story is weaved together by just three people and some people surrounding them, but just three people were actually representing a myriad of stories and maybe that’s why it seems at time so highly dramatic because you are putting in several stories into one person’s life history.