Identity, loss, family…these are the themes explored in director Nisha Platzer’s feature length documentary back home. It tackles the often painful subject of her older brother Josh’s suicide. The Vancouver filmmaker was 11 when her brother Josh, who was 15, took his own life. Twenty years after his death she now feels equipped to take the step toward getting to know her brother. As she was so young when he died, as she states in the film in a voiceover, she really does not have many memories of her brother. This is always (and I mean every moment) super poignant.
Filmed using Super 8 and 16 mm film, much of it has a sepia look or a kind of handmade feel. That renders the subject matter even more emotional as you can feel Nisha in every frame. She cared that much about it and the making of the story of her brother.
Through interviews with her parents and Josh’s chosen family – his friends – Nisha constructs a picture of the teenage boy. He was an outsider (by choice) but had a nice group of friends. Josh slanted towards the artistic and himself dreamed of being a filmmaker.
Filmed over the course of five years, the documentary truly shows how grieving and healing go hand in hand. It also shows that it is always to heal as a group than it is to go through it alone. Oddly, even though it is about death it is very much so an ode to life. To live it to the fullest and to appreciate those we come in contact with.
We move fluidly and often between the now and the past in back home. This gives the story an almost dreamlike quality. Plus we don’t really know where one time separates from the other. It is almost like Josh never left. Certainly not for the people who love him the most.