For Sanzgiri, film has always served as a way to disrupt distance. Growing up in the suburbs of Dallas with divorced parents and little contact with relatives in India, Sanzgiri found solace from cultural isolation at the local video store. There, he and his brothers devoured films by parallel cinema pioneers Satyajit Ray and Ritwik Ghatak, using their depictions of life in India as touchstones to populate their own diasporic imaginaries. The artist’s first short film, At Home But Not at Home (2019), which made its premiere at the International Film Festival Rotterdam, pays homage to this cinematic upbringing. It sutures montages from parallel films together with drone footage of Sanzgiri’s ancestral village, Curchorem. It also incorporates videos of Sanzgiri’s father, Shashi Sanzgiri, as he recounts his own experience growing up in the Portuguese-occupied state of Goa.
Shahi, who appears in all three of Sanzgiri’s films, was an 18-year-old studying in Bombay when he learned of the liberation of his home region in December of 1961. After over 400 years of colonial rule, decades of anticolonial political action, and two days of fighting, Goa had been liberated from Portuguese occupation. Seven years later, he would emigrate to the United States. An indelible link to the colonial past, Shahi’s memories link global historical events like the Bandung Conference and the first Afro-Asian conference into Sanzgiri’s own personal familial timeline. In one scene of At Home But Not at Home, Shahi describes a procession that his older cousin organized after Gandhi was killed. Each turning point of his story is punctuated with the click of a mouse as the younger Sanzgiri scrolls, rotates, and zooms in on photo negatives and a 3D model of a Gandhi statue.
The blinking of a cursor, the switch of the tab, and the whoosh of a new text message are all important storytelling devices that drive Sanzgiri’s narratives forward. These digital modes for communication, sharing, and representation of the self are not unfamiliar to those who come from diasporic households, where grainy video calls across time zones and WhatsApp messages form the infrastructure for familial connection and care. However, it wasn’t this convening that drew Sanzgiri to the desktop, but rather a moment of self-recognition. Early in 2019, before the pandemic firmly tethered us to the virtual, Sanzgiri found himself panning through 360-degree walkthroughs of Goa on Google Maps during an emotional low point—a doom-scroll prompted by a specific type of homesickness for a place where he had never been. In these images, taken by a 3D camera, a glitch occurs where the camera has turned in on itself and can’t render the seamless mesh we have come to expect. Instead, this glitch creates rips in a pixelated fabric, disembodying limbs, heads, and hands and scattering them across the digital space. “I remember having such a primal encounter with these images, recognizing myself and my lived diasporic experience in these sort of grotesque meshes of limbs, bodies, earth, and sky,” Sanzgiri tells me. “It was this moment that really sparked the entire body of my work. Ever since, I’ve been trying to understand the voids, the gaps, and the fissures, and what possibility these limitations to technology might hold.” Sanzgiri’s emotion-eliciting encounter mirrors Legacy Russell’s elemental manifesto Glitch Feminism, where the glitch—and its failures—are similarly celebrated as a generative space for marginalized people to form their own identities.1