SYNOPSIS: 'Yours Is Not The Taj Mahal' is a grief induced fever dream caused by seeing a woman resembling a dead friend. The shadow of grief can envelop us at any time, mixing perception with memory and disintegrating boundaries between the living and dead. In an unexpected place a ghost appears, triggering a familiar conversation about the friends’ desire to know the end of every story before it is told. The narrator grapples with whether to reveal to her friend how she dies. What – or who – is altered by knowing the outcome?
DIRECTOR'S STATEMENT: Two of my most important friends died within two years of one another. In exploring my relationship with each of them through film, the mode of expression conformed to their unique character and the type of friendship we had. Anne, my friend since first grade was connected to narrative. Causal relationships, characters and action ended up as ‘Gardening At Night’. My relationship with Inken, the most important friend of my young adulthood, was much more complicated. It was never difficult, but narrative couldn’t contain it. The constraints of time, space and causality did not align with the depth of our friendship or the power of her ghost over me.
I met Inken in my first semester studying in Germany. She was fierce and radical. When we were in college she dropped out – not just of school - withdrawing from much of the world as a form of protest against the status quo. She was vehemently opposed to traditional institutions, but isolated and without structure she became depressed. Years later she called to tell me she had converted to Islam, married and had a daughter, all of which had alienated her ‘Aussteiger’ (outsider) friends. To me – non-religious, then single and childless – I was thankful and knew these things had saved her. As a convert she became highly conservative in how she dressed and behaved. When I took my fiancé to meet her she would not shake his hand or remove her hijab in front of him. She prayed 5 times a day. And she was happy, structured and reveling in her little girl. Years later our sons were born within days of each other. When I contacted her to tell her I was pregnant again, she didn’t respond. Periodically I reached out to her, but to no avail. Long periods of silence were not new to us. We’d been friends for decades, lived on different continents and moved in different stratospheres. But whenever we came together no time had elapsed and no judgments were passed. Finally I reached out to her parents to find a current address and they told me why she had been silent for so long. She’d been killed in a car accident on the way to the airport in Algiers after visiting her in-laws. Her children were in the car with her, unhurt. Inken’s father was waiting to pick them up in Frankfurt and instead of bringing them home, he boarded a plane to attend her funeral. In accordance with her religious beliefs, she needed to be buried within 24 hours of death. Grief from far away is no less painful or acute. Grief collapses distance and temporal lapses and puts you face to face with a void.