The Girl From Foreign

Sadia Shep­ard
  • Review
By – January 27, 2012

Film­mak­er Sadia Shepard’s desire to unearth her family’s roots was sparked by the dis­cov­ery that her South Asian grand­moth­er was Jew­ish, from the Bene Israel com­mu­ni­ty of India. What began as a research and doc­u­men­tary project into that com­mu­ni­ty, how­ev­er, became a deeply per­son­al explo­ration of that dwin­dling Jew­ish cul­ture and its fate in reli­gious­ly par­ti­tioned India and Pak­istan, and ulti­mate­ly a quest to grasp her own com­pli­cat­ed identity. 

Shep­ard brings an extra­or­di­nary per­spec­tive as the Boston-born child of a Protes­tant Amer­i­can father and a Mus­lim moth­er from Pak­istan. Writ­ing as one might to a friend, she con­fides her fears and uncer­tain­ties as she trav­els to India and Pak­istan, grad­u­al­ly if only tem­porar­i­ly becom­ing a part of the world she came to inves­ti­gate. Her sto­ry draws togeth­er many strands: not only the his­tor­i­cal and cul­tur­al details, but also her deep feel­ings for her grand­moth­er, her sense of won­der as she trav­els in India and Pak­istan, her feel­ings for a man who befriends her, and her search to under­stand the mean­ing of home. 

Enriched by many evoca­tive obser­va­tions, includ­ing her expe­ri­ences of Jew­ish hol­i­days and cel­e­bra­tions in India, Shepard’s account is par­tic­u­lar­ly affect­ing because of its emo­tion­al hon­esty and vulnerability.

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