The Sikh Saga

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'Nothing is Impossible' - a film at the Sikh Arts Film Festival.

'Nothing is Impossible' - a film at the Sikh Arts Film Festival.

2010 Sikh Film Festival highlights untold stories…

Cinema can be a powerful way of creating awareness of culture and issues. The Sikh community has been very successful in doing this by telling stories about the community and the faith. Now in its seventh year, the Sikh Art and Film Foundation international film festival at Asia Society showcases new films which tell stories from filmmakers across the globe. The dozen  films are a glimpse into  a fascinating culture, including Vikas Khanna’s ‘Holy Kitchens: A True Business’ which explores the Sikh practice of providing free food – langar – to all who come to its door.

In ‘Nothing is Impossible’ , directed by Nina Duttaroy, Fauja Singh is a 99 year old long-distance runner who keeps running. He holds the fastest over 90 year old marathon race time, and he defies perceived notions of age with his great zest for living.

The festival runs from October 22-23 at the Asia Society and Museum in New York and concludes with the Foundation’s annual Heritage Gala.

All about Sikh Culture through cinema

Tejinder S. Bindra, President of the Sikh Art and Film Foundation, talks about the mission of creating awareness of the Sikh faith and culture through cinema.

Tejinder Bindra, President of the Sikh Art and  Film Foundation

Tejinder Bindra

Q: Why is the Sikh Film Festival important?

A:  Sikhism  is the world’s 5th largest religion with about 20 million Sikhs worldwide and yet Sikhs are many times the target of mistaken identity.   It is extremely important that Americans in general and Sikhs in specific are aware of the  great contributions that  have been made  by the Sikhs in the past and continue to do so even today.

Post-9/11 it has become even more important for us to create such an awareness. The Sikh Film Festival is committed to creating  awareness and pride in the diversity, culture and history of the Sikhs, as well as the contributions of Sikhs in America and around the world.

Sikh Film Festival - Holy Kitchens depicts langar

Sikh Film Festival - Holy Kitchens depicts langar

Q:  What are the highlights of this year’s film festival?

A: We have made considerable changes  to our format this year. We now have a four day event that will start with the children’s session on October 9th to be held at Hofstra University in Long Island. Films shown in this section will highlight the sacrifices made by the Sikhs during World War I &II.  Other films depicting the rich history and culture of the Sikhs will also be screened.

The main event will begin on Thursday Oct 21st with a photo exhibit on the Sacred trees in Sikhism. The event “Tryst with Trees – Punjab’s Sacred heritage” will be held at the Indian Consulate in New York and hosted jointly by Ambassador Prabhu Dayal and the Sikh Art and Film Foundation.

Our premiere night on October 22nd will showcase three films – ‘Holy Kitchens’ – about the unique concept of Langar in Sikhism, “Harvest of Grief”- a film by Rasil Basu will bring to light the poor condition of farmers in the state of Punjab that is forcing them to commit suicide. We will conclude  with “Rebel Queen” – the story of Maharani Jind Kaur and how she shook the British Empire.

We will continue the next day with nine additional short films and documentaries that will be judged by a distinguished panel of nine judges that come from all different backgrounds. Both of these categories are competing categories, and winners will be announced at the gala.  A total of $ 15000 in prize money will be distributed to the artists.

Q: Has awareness of the Sikh identity increased due to this annual festival?

A:      Yes, I would say so. The last three years we have been completely sold out and a significant portion of the audience has been non-Indian. We at SAFF also want to build bridges with other religions and communities as well and now are working with the prestigious Jewish Community Relations Council of New York to host a joint function depicting both the Sikh and the Jewish cultures and will announce that shortly.

For more information – www.sikharts.com

Related Post: 1984 and Other Sikh Stories

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About Author

Lavina Melwani is a New York-based journalist who writes for several international publications. [email protected] & @lassiwithlavina Sign up for the free newsletter to get your dose of Lassi!

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