Your first movie, “Arwad“, questions the Syrian identity of its main character.
How did the movie affect your own relation to your identity?
“By the time I had turned 37, I had lived half my life in Syria, and the other half in Canada. When cultures come together, it may have a healthy, regenerative effect on society, but some nonetheless mourn the realization that they are slowly losing touch with their culture of origin. In my case, I was sufficiently exposed to my native culture to feel a profound attachment to it, yet I was open to assimilation. I am thus torn between two worlds; I am culturally bipolar. My palate tastes both the sweetness of integration, and the bitterness of forgotten memories. And it is precisely to avoid being forever torn by these two worlds that I am actively trying to hold onto my identity, as a form of hope. I may not share the same past as those who were born here, but I do share the same future. Therein lies the defining forces of my identity: the future.”
Your kids have a mix of Syrian, Kurdish, Lebanese, Italian and Québécois origins.
How would you define this “new” identity?
“I would simply answer this question by quoting Amin Maalouf in his book “In the Name of Identity: Violence and the Need to Belong” saying that identity is not an absolute belonging to one religion, ethnical group, nation, country, etc. Identity is rather a journey, a trajectory which is constantly changing. I would add that for me identity lies even more so in the sum of your life experiences. Whether you come from a single country or a long list of them, I believe that your identity will grow and expend as a result of the people you encounter, and of your ability to let the world grow into your own self. As for my children, my hope is that I will be able to cultivate their curiosity about the world and that I will help them learn to be open to all differences.”
-Samer Najari, film director and father of 3 children