Sikhs On Film: A Guide To The 2011 Sikh International Film Festival In New York (VIDEOS)
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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.
A Little Revolution
"A Little Revolution - A Story of Suicides and Dreams" follows the remarkable journey of filmmaker Harpreet Kaur, who travels from the rural villages of Punjab to the capital of India with children of farmers who've committed suicide. She confronts government's highest officials with the hope that they will understand the effects of their policies and avail the opportunity to help these children.
In the densely forested hills above Ceuta, a Spanish enclave on the Moroccan coast, 57 Punjabi Indian immigrants await their fate in a shanty community they've built to avoid deportation. With lush visual style, the film accompanies them in their daily trials as they scramble to survive, waiting to cross the last 14 km that separate them from Europe.
Canadian Soldiers Sikhs
This film follows the process that 10 Sikh men in the World War I era Canadian army experienced, through enlistment, training and transport to France by troop ship. It features the struggles these Sikh soldiers faced and the battles they fought. The film traces the soldiers' return to civilian life, their descendants and a visit to the two European graves of the Canadian Sikh soldiers.
GLUT: The Untold Story of Punjab
Just more than 75 pecent of Punjab's youth are addicted to drugs. A multi-million drug nexus operates freely under the noses of multiple officials and law enforcement agencies, leaving them mere bystanders to Punjab's erosion. The yearly consumption of alcohol in Punjab is touching 29 Crore bottles making it one of the highest per capita consumers of alcohol in the world. The scenario is worsening at such a rapid rate, experts have already begun to predict the end of the State.
Hew McLeod: A Kiwi Sikh Historian
The unlikely story of one New Zealander, the son of a sheep farmer from Fielding, who has spent a lifetime researching the Sikh people of India. He conducted groundbreaking research into Punjabi immigration to New Zealand, preserving the early history of this sizable group for generations to come. The soft-spoken emeritus professor, who has inflamed controversy and blazed a trail for other scholars to follow over four decades, speaks for the first time.
"Sikhligar" is a documentary portraying the lives of the Sikligar Sikhs: the blacksmith/ironsmiths and weapons-makers of the Khalsa Army of the Sikhs. Very little is known about the Sikligars in and outside of India, as they have been displaced through years of colonization and government oppression. Illiterate for the last 300 years, the Sikligars are beginning to empower themselves through different means.
Sikh-American teenager Angad takes the message of friendship and building bridges to an international level. He and his American classmates host 32 French teens for two weeks as part of an exchange program. They get to know French lifestyle and culture on an individual level, breaking the common stereotypes that they had of the French, while showing their guests the true face of America. At the end of the program the students are almost culturally (Ex) Changed.
Kuldeep Singh and Jagjeet Singh, Sikh by religion, are two best childhood friends living as neighbors in New Delhi, India. Kuldeep has always looked upon Jagjeet as his younger brother and cares deeply for him. The film is set amidst the backdrop of the 1984 Delhi riots and examines the toll this tumultuous event takes on their friendship.
Let It Out
"Let It Out" is a music video addressing the topic of bullying and harassment in schools. The film concerns a young Sikh boy who remains faithful to his religion but is bullied because he looks different. The boy eventually learns how to deal with bullying. The most important thing to remember is to not bottle up your emotions, and instead talk to someone and "Let It Out."
Two friends who share a common background reunite after several years of being apart. One is a Sikh who has cut his hair after being brutalized during a hate crime, and the other has kept his hair since birth. Their dialogue deals with issues Sikhs face when trying to assimilate into modern American society, while maintaining their cultural and religious heritage.
Ninety-five years ago, a messiah named Bhagat Puran nourished the Sikh Act of Faith, and for 14 long years he cared for a spastic child on his shoulders. With Sikhs, all deeds of altruism are acts of faith -- helping others, serving the needy, treating the sick, standing for justice and selfless public service. He started a movement, Pingalwar,a to provide a home for handicapped, terminally ill and others shunned by society.