Ákos Östör, professor of anthropology and film, emeritus, lectured and presented his latest film, In My Mother’s House, at more than a dozen universities in India, Turkey and throughout Europe in 2016.
On a random Thursday in 2005, Östör’s wife, Lina Fruzzetti, opened a a startling email that read, “If this is your father, we are cousins.”
In My Mother’s House follows a decade-long quest to learn more about Fruzzetti’s Italian father who died young in Italian-ruled Eritrea, and her Eritrean mother who does not dwell on the past. Above all, Fruzzetti strives to understand her far-flung African, European, and American family against the backdrop of colonial rule, worlds at war, migration, grief, diasporas, and the global world. Her life experiences and widely dispersed family are placed into the context of global events and changes.
“Filming on the run, not knowing what will happen next, in the cramped living rooms, crowded markets and villages of Eritrea and Italy, we went wherever the events took us,” Östör said. “The film attempts to sustain the spirit of discovery and tense anticipation we felt during the production process. After all, we were protagonists, as well as historians, ethnographers and filmmakers. The improvised, mostly handheld shots, without any opportunity to prepare, create an intimacy that brings the viewer along as if participating in events as they unfold.”
Östör has already shown clips of the film to a Wesleyan audience in 2015 when it was a work-in-progress.
Both Östör and Fruzzetti are anthropologists and filmmakers who have authored award-winning films and have written over a dozen books.
In My Mother’s House is their first, deeply personal film. Their previous films in India and Tanzania concern individual lives in small communities, in contexts ranging from sacred rituals and festivals in a town, to women scroll painters and singers in village West Bengal; from fish markets in Dar es Salaam, to a handicapped people’s cooperative in Zanzibar. All were shown at festivals around the world and won numerous awards.
Watch a trailer of In My Mother’s House.