The Sikh International Film Festival returned to New York City last weekend after a two-year pandemic hiatus. A total of 17 films centered around Sikh history, diaspora, and innovation were showcased at Manhattan’s Rubin Museum on November 12.
The festival, hosted by the New York-based Sikh Art and Film Foundation since 2009, has previously been held at the McGraw-Hill Conference Center, the Paley Center for Media, the Asia Society and Museum, and the NYU Skirball Center for Performing Arts.
Teji Bindra, co-founder of the Sikh Art and Film Foundation, explained the distinction of the Sikh experience beyond the general envelopment of Indian art and films, shedding some light on why such a delineation was relevant.
“The differentiation is there because sometimes, especially in the West, Sikhs have been misunderstood,” Bindra said, alluding to the treatment of Sikhs in the United States after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and other notable instances of Sikh discrimination in Europe.
“This is a way for us to bring about better awareness of what Sikhism stands for, and to build bridges around the world,” he added.
Of the 17 films included in the festival, five of them are centered on the nuanced experiences of the Sikh diaspora in France and the resounding impacts of the nation’s 2004 ban on conspicuous religious articles of clothing in public schools.
The film, ‘TurBAN’, follows lawyer and activist Ranjit Singh in his quest to have the ban overturned so that French Sikhs wouldn’t have to choose between their heritage and their education.
‘Silver Lining’, follows the United Sikh Mission’s commitment to improving eye healthcare provisions across rural Punjab.