By Tejinder S. Bindra, President, Sikh Art & Film Foundation
Sikhs are easily identified by colorful turbans and uncut hair, seen in every borough of New York City, Long Island, New Jersey and Connecticut. The greater New York region is home to a half-million Sikhs. Although you’ll find Sikhs today in every corner of the globe, in New York, Sikh turbans took on new meaning following 9/11, when some people mistook Sikhs for terrorists simply because of the turbans. Living through this experience, we noticed that the average person does not know much -- if anything -- about Sikhism, the fifth largest religion in the world. All of this pointed to an immediate need for Sikhs to educate others about Sikh culture, to explain our values and, following our founding Guru’s advice, to build a bridge between people of different faiths.
The Sikh Arts and Film Foundation is the organization that proudly takes on this broad mission. Every year we assemble dozens of films that we think will entertain and enlighten while offering a better understanding of Sikh heritage, arts and culture. Each film our curators select illuminates contemporary issues and problems facing Sikhs, and demonstrates the service and contributions of Sikhs in American society.
The Sikh International Film Festival encourages independent film directors, producers, and writers to create innovative works that touch on Sikh themes and issues
. We search for films from America and abroad, from Sikh and non-Sikh filmmakers, many with socially conscious themes. Through our film festival, competition and annual gala, we also aim to provide a forum for ongoing dialogue between the Sikhs and other communities. And, importantly, we wish to promote respect for the inalienable human rights and dignity of all people.
The Sikh International Film Festival (Oct. 14-15) is held at Asia Society in Manhattan. The festival will present 12 documentary and short films featuring Sikh stories from across the globe, from both established and emerging filmmakers.