American Turban

Captured on film: Post-9/11 experiences of American Sikhs

It was a serendipitous post on The Sikh Coalition’s Facebook page that linked to the independent film A Dream in Doubt (2007), which follows Rana Singh Sodhi after his brother, Balbir, was killed in a post-9/11 hate crime in Arizona.  The documentary aired on PBS’s Independent Lens :

When his brother is murdered, Rana Singh Sodhi finds himself coping with national tragedy and murder, finding support in community and attempting to reclaim the American dream.

What made the Sikh Coalition’s post so timely was that Rana Singh was recently in the news as he worked to preserve the name of Balbir Singh Sodhi on Arizona’s 9/11 memorial.  Legislators - ignorant of the fact that his murder was directly associated to the attacks - had passed a bill to remove Balbir Singh’s name.  The Governor of Arizona, Jan Brewer, vetoed the bill and fortunately the memorial was preserved. While this latest situation is not in A Dream in Doubt, the movie gives the full story behind the case of Balbir Singh, and the resilience of Rana Singh, his family, and his community.

Despite being several years old, A Dream in Doubt is still very relevant.  Some of the images, stories and reports of hate crimes captured in the film are hauntingly familiar to crimes that are happening to Sikhs even today.  The movie can be watched online at several websites: iTunes, Snagfilms, Hulu, Zune.

Incidentally, Independent Lens aired another film about the experience of Sikhs after 9/11 called American Made, released in 2003:

Trapped in the middle of the desert on their way to the Grand Canyon, a Sikh American family has only one hope: the remote highway and the occasional car that drives by. AMERICAN MADE confronts issues of tradition, faith, conformity and sacrifice after the family’s youngest son accuses his turban-clad orthodox father of looking like a terrorist while stranded on a remote desert road.

The DVD of this movie can be ordered at the American Made website. This film was written and directed by Sharat Raju, who also directed the 2006 film Divided We Fall: Americans in the Aftermath:

Valarie Kaur was a 20-year-old college student when she set out across America in the aftermath of 9/11, camera in hand, to document hate violence against her community. From the still-shocked streets of Ground Zero to the desert towns of the American west, her epic journey confronts the forces unleashed in a time of national crisis – racism and religion, fear and forgiveness – until she finds the heart of America… halfway around the world.

Available on DVD, Divided We Fall: Americans in the Aftermath documented post-9/11 hate crimes across the country (including Balbir Singh’s murder), and which also was the springboard for the career of civil rights advocate Valarie Kaur.

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