OVER THE LAST FEW YEARS, SikhNet has pioneered a grass roots film festival, that is exclusively online. This venue has created a way for Sikh youth to express their questions, answers, inspirations, desperations and everything in between. Our only criteria has been that it is related to Sikhism (see the rules). This online film festival has become increasingly popular, and some of the young directors have gone on to other film festivals. We consider it to be a venue that anyone of any skill level can participate in, but can introduce youth to the power of film media. Some directors have gone from our film festival to thinking about a career in film making.
The SikhNet Film Festival has inspired scores of film submissions from all around the world. The Festival idea originated in 2006 with SikhNet’s recognition of the immense popularity and creativity of video postings sites like YouTube, and the need for youth to get involved in media and use their great creativity to better communicate the Sikh identity and values. Films styles have ranged from picture slideshows, documentaries, comedies, action videos, plays, dramas, spoofs, animations, rap songs, and reenactments. The subject matter has covered things relating to Sikhi like personal journeys, interviews of inspiring people, researching an aspect of Sikhi, discrimination against Sikhs, difficulty of maintaining the Sikh identity, remembering and respecting Sikh history, honesty, Sikhs role/identity in the modern world, conquering the mind, female infanticide, living the Sikh discipline, fearlessness and sacrifice, and relevent Sikh issues and politics. Entrants to the film festival have spanned across the world: USA, Canada, England, India, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Germany, Thailand, and Scotland.
Judging and Prizes
The film festival was intended to be from the youth so the age categories were Junior (11-17 years old) and Senior (18-25 years old). After receiving films from directors who were above 25 we decided to open the festival up to all ages in 2007. We changed the senior division into ‘intermediate’ and added the Senior (Above 25 years old) however the senior division were not eligible for cash prizes. The prizes were as follows Intermediate Division – First Place: $1,000 USD, Second Place: $500 USD, Third Place: $250 USD. Junior Division – First place: $500 USD, Second Place: $250 USD, Third Place: $125. The Senior Division hasn’t been eligible for cash prizes however, in 2009 we added non-cash prizes provided by our partners (SikhKaras.com, ArtOfPunjab.com, RootsGear.com, SpritVoyage.com, 3HO events, Peace Cereals, and Yogi Tea). We have found it difficult to compare some of the videos from different genres, for example it’s hard to compare a well done drama to a well done documentary or comedy. So in 2009 we decided to give out best in category awards for the 3 categories of drama, comedy, and documentary. In addition we gave a “technical merit” award and a “hot topic” award as we saw fit. In 2009 we awarded free Gurbani engraved karas, and Kirtan CDs to the first 15 entrees to encourage people to submit their films before the deadline.
Entries for each year’s competition were judged on (1) Creativity and Originality, (2) Ability to Deliver the Message and (3) Technical Execution. In 2006 we recruited an impressive list of qualified judges, we tallied and averaged their scores to come up with the winners. In 2007 we recruited a different panel of just as impressive judges, and in 2008 the judging was assisted by the SikhNet staff as well as in 2009 it was done solely by the SikhNet staff.
We consider the film festival as two fold. (1) it is a competition with prizes (2) at the same time we consider every entrant as a winner because they are creating something positive that serves people around the world. Creating positive Sikh media is fun and it’s also a great seva, the prizes are just an incentive. Read more about Judging and ‘tips and suggestions’.
2006 was the launch of the festival and at SikhNet we really didn’t know what to expect. We got a sponsor (SikhPoint.com) which insured that we could have the resources we needed to execute the film festival. We recruited judges who are qualified Sikh individuals who have a background in acting/creating films/documentaries, etc. Then we tried to get the word out as much as possible to get youngsters making films by advertising heavily on SikhNet and partner sites, as well as sending out emails to thousands of subscribers. As the deadline closed in we were in humble submission to the fact that there were only a few films submitted. But lo and behold on the day of the actual submission deadline we received the bulk of the films. It was clear that our entrants had been working on these films and improving them as much as they could up until the last moment. We were surprised and exited about all of the films and as we watched them we were very happy to have started the online film festival because it was a success. We are proud of and grateful to all the directors of the 2006 films for having the courage to be pioneers with us. Thank You. One director, Jasmeet Singh had received acclaim for his 1st place film “The Call”, and the film was later viewed at the Spinning Wheel Film Festival. Jasmeet Singh decided to major in film in college.
We started this festival out the same way as in 2006 by promoting it on SikhNet, and sending out emails, and we also encouraged people to print and pass out flyers for the event. We also started creating funny or entertaining promotional videos. It was sponsored by the Sikh Art & Film Foundation. It was a similar story as in 2006 having received very few videos before the submission deadline, but by the cut off time we had received twice and many entries as in 2006! The film festival was proving to have gained momentum and be ever more successful. Many of the directors from the previous year made new films with their increased skills. Angad Singh won 1st place in the Junior division for his film “One Light”, which later moved on to the Spinning Wheel Film Festival. The SikhNet Film Festival has served to introduce the power of film media to young directors so they can be discovered and take their talent to the next level.
Sponsored by MBSK Foundation, the 3rd Film Festival theme “My Sikhi” inspired over 40 young Sikh filmmakers. The 2008 event included a live broadcast online. For the first time ever on September 13th and 14th, SikhNet used new web broadcasting technology to get people engaged with the films and with each other by discussing the films as they were being shown. In the tradition of “Britain’s Got Talent and “American Idol,” audience members voted for their favorites in real-time, right as the films were being shown.
Sponsored by Western Union ‘yes’. Because 2009 is the 25th anniversary of the attack on the Harimandir Sahib and the Akal Takhat in 1984, several of this year’s entries seemed to be inspired by that anniversary like Reaching For Home, Justice & Hope, and 84 Plus 25. In 2009 we received some of the highest quality films we’ve gotten so far in terms of productions quality. “Outlaw” was on par with a mainstream TV production, featuring the first ever light saber gatka fight sequence. “turBAN” was a powerful film including a rap video, about religious discrimination in France.
Sponsored by I Am Singh (The Movie). In 2010 we received 34 videos. These videos were a mix of dramas, comedies, and documentaries as it was in previous years. Many of the directors had also made movies in previous years. In fact most of the prize winners had posted videos in the past that didn’t win prizes. It just goes to show that people’s skills increase. It is also interesting to notice how there are certain themes every year. in 2009 there were several films about the Punjabi language. In 2010 there were a couple of videos that were about being scared for your life and then getting closer to the Guru.
Sponsored by Ocean of Pearls (The Movie). In 2011 we received 30 films from young filmmakers all around the world. The judging process was especially difficult this year because of the quality of the films which, in the opinion of the judging panel, is improving every year. In addition to films from first-time directors, we had new films from directors who had submitted films in previous years, and the judges agreed unanimously that every one of these young directors did a better job this year than ever before.
In 2012 we received 22 films from young filmmakers all around the world. We introduced a new category for films under 5 min. long called “Sikhnet Shorts”. We also held a sweepstakes for an ipad to help spread the word on social media. This year we received lots of very well produced films.
Film Festival winners from previous years like Angad Singh and Jasmeet Singh have gone on to have their films shown on television in the U.K. and India as well as having them screened at other film festivals around the world.