IN LITERARY VERNACULAR, THE WORD “EPIC” IS A DESIRABLE DESCRIPTOR IRREFUTABLY APPLIED TO HOMER’S, WELL, EPIC “THE ODYSSEY.” THE SEMINAL TOME DETAILS ITS HERO’S ENDURANCE THROUGH UNTOLD TREACHEROUS EPISODES. IN THE END, HOWEVER, IT IS NOT THESE TRIBULATIONS BUT RATHER THE CHARACTER’S HOMECOMING THAT PROVES MOST SPIRITUALLY TRYING. AFTER 20 YEARS ABROAD, ODYSSEUS FINDS HIMSELF ON HIS NATIVE SHORES — ONLY THEY NO LONGER FEEL NATIVE AND HE EMERGES UNRECOGNIZABLE TO HIS PEOPLE. THE “EPIC” HUMAN TRUTH IN THIS TALE IS THE SAME ONE EXPRESSED IN THE SUCCINCT, BUT LIKEWISE ASTUTE OBSERVATION BY ANOTHER GREEK SCHOLAR, HERACLITUS: “NO MAN EVER STEPS IN THE SAME RIVER TWICE, BECAUSE IT'S NOT THE SAME RIVER, AND HE'S NOT THE SAME MAN.”
“We Came Home,” a documentary film by Ariana Delawari, similarly explores how personal evolution can lead one to query classifications of “identity” and “home.” Born in Los Angeles to Afghan parents, Delawari journeys to Afghanistan with her family after 9/11. Here, she encounters new layers of her ancestral story and also records her debut album, “Lion of Panjshir," with both Afghani master musicians and American friends. Her film, in turn, captures the way in which her travels in Afghanistan and the creative process it provokes changes her. It also memorializes the mixed emotions she experiences upon returning to LA. Through “We Came Home,” Delawari gives timely modern shape to the countless individuals struggling to find their own way “home” in our 21st century diaspora.
YOUR RECENT DOCUMENTARY IS AN ODYSSEY OF SORTS. WHERE DID THE SPARK TO CREATE THIS COME FROM?
"We Came Home" came about very organically. I started documenting Afghanistan in 2002, at first just in still photos and some video. Then I recorded an album there with a few friends from LA and three Afghan master musicians. At first, I thought the film would be about the making of the album. Then one of my producers, Emily Lynch, said — after watching all of the footage from my previous trips — "Ariana, your family story is so interesting. This film should be bigger, like your whole journey." So we made another trip to Kabul to follow my parents around, and I spent about a year and a half in the editing room with our editors putting together 10 years of documentation in addition to so many old videos and family photos from my childhood. The film became more about my father and his work of re-building the banking system in Afghanistan.
WHAT IS YOUR EARLIEST MEMORY?
Some of my earliest memories were the Afghan parties that were happening in our home when I was a child. It was just after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and our home became a place for Afghan refugee friends and relatives to celebrate their new chapter in America.
WHAT WORD BEST DESCRIBES YOUR EMOTIONAL STATE WHILE LIVING IN KABUL DURING THE FILMING OF "WE CAME HOME?"
I visited a lot and spent a lot of time there, but I was never really living there. I love Afghanistan. I feel very peaceful, tranquil, loved, inspired, excited, grateful when I am there.
A PERFECT SONG
A SCENE THAT DESCRIBES YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS
A CHILDHOOD PICTURE
YOUR FAVORITE BODY PART
WHAT DO YOU DO BEST?
I think I am best at making art and connecting people together. My close friends tell me that I inspire them a lot. I am like a cheerleader for my loved ones. I like to see people's dreams come true, and I definitely will shove a friend into the cold, scary waters to get that thing happening.
WHAT WAS A DECISION WHICH CHANGED THE COURSE OF YOUR LIFE?
My first trip to Afghanistan. Also when I started to meditate.
WHAT IS YOUR MOST IRRESISTIBLE VICE?
A SCENE YOU WISH YOU'D SHOT
A SONG THAT MAKES YOU CRY
A butterfly landed on me in Oaxaca and stayed on my hand for 30 minutes while I hiked down to a waterfall.
YOUR LIFE PHILOSOPHY
I took this photo of when I was in Brazil visiting John of God. After naming our peace campaign "Inspire Peace" I realized I had been sitting on this bench with the same words written on it for days before.
WHAT IS THE BEST PART OF YOUR JOB?
I've built a life of art and activism, and more and more these paths have become one. So far everything I have created has been rooted in the causes that I believe in.
WHAT CONFLICTS DO YOU HAVE ABOUT THE INDUSTRY YOU WORK IN?
I get really bummed out when talented female artists show off their asses in order to get more fans. There is a fine line between liberation and slavery. Nudity is beautiful as a rebellion. But when its a male gaze vibe for likes and sales I get sad for our gender.
YOUR FAVORITE PLACE ON EARTH
A SONG THAT MAKES YOU HOPEFUL
WHAT AMERICA IS TO YOU
WHAT AFGHANISTAN IS TO YOU
A LOVE STORY
WHAT WAS THE HARDEST PART OF RECORDING AN ALBUM IN KABUL?
There were so many challenges. The technical challenges were probably the most intense. We only had the equipment for four days and the power went out, the generator died and we only had our engineer for one of those days.
WHAT WAS THE MOST REWARDING PART OF RECORDING AN ALBUM IN KABUL?
Working with the Ustads, the Afghan classical musicians. That is something that will be in my heart for the rest of my life. They are a lot older than I am. We don't know how much longer they will be with us. The experience changed me and changed the way that I write and perform music, too.
YOUR FAVORITE FEMALE CHARACTER
A PICTURE OF HAPPINESS
The poster says "Afghanistan in My Heart." It was taken in Kabul by my friend Qayce Alamdar for my "Inspire Peace" campaign.
A traditional Thali meal taken in Goa, India.
A ROAD TRIP SCENE
A SONG THAT MAKES YOU NOSTALGIC
WHO HAVE BEEN THE GREATEST TEACHERS IN YOUR LIFE?
David Lynch has been a very important teacher and collaborator. All of the artists that I collaborate with in different capacities are also my teachers. Dr. Jane Goodall is a dear friend and one of my biggest teachers and heroes. I have had a lot of teachers. I've been really lucky in this way.
IF YOU COULD HAVE DINNER WITH ANYONE ALIVE, WHO WOULD IT BE AND WHAT WOULD YOU TALK ABOUT?
Bernie Sanders. He is currently my biggest hero. I think I would want him to lead the conversation. I'm sure he would recognize what I would need to hear most.