This Friday, you can get closer to the many facets, dimensions and path-breaking work of the Sikh community around the world through a film festival which seeks to provide an outlet for sharing Sikh heritage and culture with the rest of the world by creating awareness for work that is ‘Sikh-centric’ and in the process showcasing talent and instilling pride in the community. Founded 13 years back in California by Bicky Singh, The Sikhlens Sikh Arts & Film Festival travels for the first time to India and opens here in Chandigarh on February 21 at the Tagore Theatre.
Sikhlens seeks work from artists in a variety of fields — films, books, music and art. It creates appropriate avenues for this work to be shared with the rest of the world with the aim of getting more exposure for the presenters, and at the same time creating awareness about Sikhs. Sikhlens through its ‘Destination S’ program provides funding and filming scholarship programmes for filmmakers both Sikh and non-Sikh, whose projects aim to bring inspiring stories about Sikh history and heritage into the world’s mainstream conversation on race, ethnic harmony, justice, and spirituality.
Chandigarh-based filmmaker Ojaswwee Sharma of Rolling Frames Entertainment, whose films have travelled to the Festival in California, is taking care of the Indian chapter of the festival here, while Bicky Singh, the founder is in Chandigarh to present the intention of the festival, which strives to be an annual affair in the city. The full-day film festival promises the best of SikhLens curated short films and documentaries, with a chance to interact with filmmakers, artists, authors and prominent Sikh personalities of the region.
“The idea of the festival is to promote art, culture and heritage, give a chance to young filmmakers and city’s audience to view some wonderful films and also promote the culture of documentary and short films here. As a filmmaker, it is my way of giving back to the medium. The festival has space for art and photography exhibitions, poetry recital and performances and will open and close with films from India. The festival is a result of the support of many people, and the Chandigarh Administration,” shares Ojaswwee, whose three films will be screened as part of the festival.
The Festival will screen 14 films and opens with ‘Benediction’, a film about understanding the meaning of God through Gurbani and how a non-Sikh beggar’s life changes course from asking for alms to earning a living and self-respect. ‘The Lions of London’ is a documentary on the enormous and forgotten contribution of Sikhs fighting for the British during World War I. In the summer of 2012, the world watched on as 100-year-old Fauja Singh, the world’s oldest marathon runner, carried the Olympic Torch through London. The 107-year-old runner tells his unbelievable tale of enduring the loss of his son, and taking up running to save his soul in the film, ‘I Run While Talking to God’.
‘Shades of Indigo’, is about a Sikh farmer who migrates to the Bellingham/ Belleview Washington area in 1976 to become a blueberry farmer. Australian Sikh cousins, Gurmesh and Saptal Singh work together on their family blueberry and macadamia farm and their story comes alive in ‘Growing Life’. ‘Zubaan’ looks sensitively at the lack of a clear witness protection policy in India, while ‘She Who Questions’ is the story of a second-generation Sikh Scottish woman’s struggles to help other Sikh sisters” adjust to Western society. With unparalleled craftsmanship, the Singh Twins bring Moghul Indian influences to their paintings that range from scenes of domestic bliss to highly charged political art. The film ‘The Singh Twins’ looks closely at their art. Scars: After 100 years of Jallianwala Bagh takes one to the site that witnessed the baseless, brutal killings. It is weaved through heart-wrenching narratives from the descendants of the martyrs who have kept the stories buried deep in their hearts over the generations. Based in December 1984, the story of ‘Chaurassi’ is about a middle-aged Sikh couple living in Bhopal. Having lost many of their relatives and friends in the nation-wide anti-Sikh carnage that started from Delhi, they are in a precarious emotional state.
The artist segment of the Festival focuses on Hardeep Singh, who creates high-quality handwritten Gurbani calligraphy, Aman Singh Gulati, who started making paintings and portraits on almonds and has made a series on Guru Nanak’s teachings titled ‘Soul of Sikhism’. Also showcasing his work here will be photographer Vinod Chauhan, who has done a series on the Gurudwaras of Punjab titled ‘Charan Chhoh’ and Devinder Pal Singh, ace kite maker. Lily Swarn, a multilingual poet will read some of her favourite poems, while spoken word poet, Amy Singh and stand-up comedy artist Minto Singh promise interesting performances.
‘Sikh Formaggio’ follows the work of Sikhs, and their hand in saving the Parmesan cheese industry in Northern Italy while struggling to keep their identity. In ‘Ride With Pride’, the founder of the Sikh Motorcycle Club in Melbourne, Australia fights for exemptions for turbaned Sikh. ‘Rooh’ is a story about a young man and his religious conscience. ‘Red, White, and Beard’ is a light-hearted glance into Sikh Captain America and the man behind this growing phenomenon. ‘The Prisoners’ Song’ points out how tens of thousands of Sikhs, while fighting for their own independence from British oppression, were still willing to aid the Empire in their European ‘War for Civilization.’ ‘Style with Kaur’ looks at how a young Sydney-based fashion designer, and first-ever turbaned Sikh fashion blogger, fuses eastern and western cultures with her fashion.
The one-day festival is scheduled for February 21 and is on from 11 am to 8 pm at Tagore Theatre. Entry is free.
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