Literature, stories, cultural events, and films are a few things that contribute significantly to representing as well as carrying a culture forward for the new generation. The Spinning Wheel Film Festival, in Washington DC, was organized in 2008 for the same purpose. It celebrated the stories of Sikhs worldwide, bringing diverse interpretations of their culture, identity and history to the screen. 

One Light: The celebrated Sikh film
The Kaur Foundation organizes the Sikh Film Festival every year with the aim of promoting Sikhs to express their ideas and skills on a global platform. In 2008, a notable film showcased at the festival was ‘One Light’ , a heartwarming production directed by Angad Singh, a 14-year-old from Atlanta, Georgia.

‘One Light’ featured interviews conducted by the young Sikh with his neighbours. He asked them various questions about themselves, the sources of conflict in the world, and ways to foster unity among different people, and encouraged them to draw connections between their own culture and his Sikh heritage. The film resonated with the audience, as it beautifully celebrated the inherent unity among people and highlighted the importance of understanding and bridging gaps between different communities.

Singh said, “My goal was to bridge the differences between people and celebrate the similarities that we as humans share.”

Films about revolutionary Sikhs 

Another remarkable film showcased at the festival was a BBC production focusing on Monty Panesar, a Sikh cricketer who serves as a role model in the world of sports. The documentary depicted his life and documented his journey during a visit to India.

Additionally, the festival screened an 18-minute DVD called "Kaur Cultural Safari," specifically created for elementary schools. This film aimed to educate young students about Sikh culture by demystifying its various aspects. It showcased three children as they explored different elements of the Sikh faith, such as learning how to tie a patka and a turban, visiting a gurudwara, and understanding the history of the Gurus.
Inni Kaur, one of the organisers, said, "The festival was a huge success and we had national and overseas participants. It is about uniting the community. These are our stories, who will tell them if we don't?"

 Ocean of Pearls -A ground-breaking movie 

The movie ‘Ocean of Pearls’, directed by Sarab Singh Neelam, a practising physician, is set in Canada and America. The story revolves around a young Sikh man who becomes a victim of racial profiling. As his appearance becomes an obstacle in his career, he decides to cut his hair. This decision leads him to reevaluate the traditions he has neglected. The film is currently being showcased at different film festivals. After gaining massive traction, the director answered some of the intricacies of the movie. 

Sarab said that events like 9/11 brought a massive change in how the Sikh community was seen by others. It made them feel like outcasts and terrorists. The hate crimes against Sikhs increased at a rapid pace. At the same time, he observed that there was no Sikh filmmaker who wears a turban, not even in India. This gave him the motivation to raise his voice through artistic expression. The film is encouraging others to write and direct since there is a lot that the Sikh community can share with the world. 

Talking about the medical theme, Sarab said that Amrit's identity crisis takes centre stage in the story as he navigates a challenging phase in his life. It resonates universally, transcending religious and racial boundaries, as people from all backgrounds find a connection with the characters. The film delves into numerous layers, with the theme of medicine merely being one of them. 

In the film, the lead role as well as the character is a Sikh male. It was the producer Jim Burnstein's idea as he wanted to present America through a different lens. Since the launch, they received only good responses from the audience. 

In a world where Sikhs are usually stereotyped by various directors, having a realistic representation is an eye-opener. It gives a clear perspective about the community, their belief system and traditions. 


*Based on an article published in India Today on 4th August 2008 


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