Many Rivers Home
By turns contemplative and passionate, soothing and sad, Many Rivers Home is a documentary about the obligations of living and the necessities of old age and death. In its opening scene, the director rows a small boat on a lake, bringing it to a stop among lily pads, with green hills on the background shore. Amid the calm and beauty, she closes her hands in prayer. We then see footage of her mother, strong and lively in her old age. What follows is an examination of aging and family bonds in the South Asian community, as Singh moves outward from her love of her mother to a wider view. Her film is set chiefly in a nursing home run by the Progressive Intercultural Community Services, an organization dedicated to care of South Asian seniors in the Lower Mainland. In this place we see that with a little dedication and a strong sense of family, elders can flourish amid the limitations of old age. The residence is marked by a strong sense of community, with compassionate care and a belief among the seniors that life is still rich and rewarding. There is sadness blended with the good spirits, though, as residents face down the last days of their lives and try to deal with the burdens, as well as the joys, of decades’ worth of memories. Most prominent among the elderly is Saroj, a wonderfully spirited widow who is determined to live what’s left of her life to the fullest. In her Sangra sees a likeness of her own mother, and it is the bond between child and parent that structures the documentary and gives it its power. As a portrait of ethnicity in Canada and a meditation on mortality, this is rich and rewarding; but its ultimate value is as an expression of love. This is a family film in the best sense of the word.