House of Sand and Fog

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Movie Analysis #3: “House of Sand and Fog”

In the movie “House of Sand and Fog,” we are given a glimpse into the immigrant experience, and we are asked to question what we would be willing to sacrifice in pursuit of our dreams. The ownership of a house is the conflict at the heart of the story, but the house means different things to the people involved. For Behrani, the Iranian immigrant who purchased the house, the house represents his piece of the “American Dream,” and ownership of the house would restore his honor and help to fulfill his hopes and dreams of making a good life for his family in America; for Kathy, the desperately depressed addict who was evicted from the house, it is almost a life raft keeping her afloat, and the last connection she has to her past life and happier, more stable times. Director Vadim Perelman says (in the DVD production notes), “It is a story about loneliness and of being cast out… about being an immigrant in a new country and, with regard to Kathy, about feeling like an immigrant in your own country.” What struck me as particularly meaningful is that, although these two people seem very different, their actions come from very similar feelings of shame. Both are misunderstood by the society around them, either because of the stigma of being an alcoholic and homeless, or because of the prejudice that most immigrants experience. Both are flawed people, but both are trying to do what they feel is the right thing to turn their lives around. They do not understand each other, neither their language nor their culture, and it is interesting to see that each thinks the other is “beneath” them. As Behrani tells his son, “Americans, they do not deserve what they have… We are not like them.” He sees Kathy as a lazy American, and she sees Behrani as an undeserving “foreigner” who “stole” her house. What is most disheartening is that neither seems willing to see the other person’s point of view.

Racism and classism are such...
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