Documentaries/ Film festival at Punjabi American festival on May 28th, 2006 -
The Widow Colony and Sikhs in the City
Feature presentation: The Widow Colony: 70 minutes
The Widow Colony accesses the living conditions of the widows and the orphans,
of the Delhi Pogroms of 1984, where thousands of innocent civilians were
brutally murdered with the help of the Government.
The interviews with the widows reveal that even though they have learned to
continue on with their livelihood, a large part of their psyche remains trapped
in 1984. With their families torn and traumatized these widows and children live
in a segregated ghetto of New Delhi, Tilak Vihar. They have been fighting for
justice for 20 years and now their children fight with the problem of drugs and
unemployment. The perpetrators of these crimes remain free, the victims remain
forgotten. This documentary was recently premiered in New Delhi and very
received by non Sikh intelligentsia of India
'Punjabi Cab' exposes bigotry's mean streets
Americans reacted to the horrific tragedy of Sept. 11 with an astonishing range
of emotions and actions. Oakland filmmaker and freelance cinematographer Liam
Dalzell picked up his camera.
Stunned by the brutal post-9/11 killing of a Sikh in Arizona and a rash of
shootings aimed at Bay Area cab drivers, the 33-year-old Stanford film-program
graduate set out to explore the Sikh community. He zeroed in on three Sikh Bay
Area taxi drivers and immersed himself in their world. The resulting short film,
"Punjabi Cab," screens today at the Film Arts Foundation Festival of Independent
Cinema at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco.
Dalzell, who came to the Bay Area by way of India, Ireland and New York, took a
moment to answer some questions about documentary filmmaking and "Punjabi Cab."
Q: Where are you from originally?
A I'm from Ireland, but it's kind of a complicated story. I was born in India
and I grew up there until I was 14. I did high school and undergrad in Ireland,
and then I moved to the States -- moved to New York, and then tried for the
Q: Can you tell me a bit about your background in film?
A Sure; there's not much to it. I'd always been interested in film as a consumer
and documentary film in particular.
Q: Why documentary film?
A Because it's a very sort of direct way of opening up the imagination, and I've
always been interested in how people on the peripheries of culture observe and
separate the culture they're living in. Documentary film is a very immediate way
of doing that when it's done well.
There's as much drama in documentary and there can be as much art in documentary
as in any other kind of filmmaking. There are no limits in documentary film
really, and it's a shame that it has this kind of stigma of being just merely
educational. It can do so much more. It can be as moving and imaginative as any
Q: How did you decide to become a documentary filmmaker?
A It occurred to me after watching a film that maybe I could be doing this. It's
so easy now to make your own film -- the cameras are cheap, software is
available. And so I made some short films ... just kind of recreationally, and
then enjoyed it so much, I thought I really could try and make a living in film.
It's then that I applied to the Stanford film program. The whole process of
discovery took a few months.
Q: What was the film that inspired you?
A The film is called "Time Indefinite" by Ross McElwee, and it was only kind of
accidental that it was that particular film. That's not necessarily one of my
favorite films, but there's something about that sort of personal insight. The
other very appealing thing to me is that you can sort of be the primary
filmmaker -- it can be your thing. You can sort of just make it with your hands.
Q: Was that the case with "Punjabi Cab"?
A Yeah! It was my thesis film at Stanford. All of the thesis students at
Stanford are required to direct, produce and edit their own films, and most
people shoot their own films, too, which is what I did. It's kind of a
one-person operation, so it's kind of a craft that way.
Q: What was the inspiration behind "Punjabi Cab"?
A I was living in New York on 9/11. By that stage, I felt that New York was my
home. New York reacted to that event in a way that was sort of unique. It felt
like the rest of the country reacted kind of differently, and in New York it was
mainly grief rather than anger.
It was right after 9/11 that a Sikh man was shot outside a gas station in
Phoenix, Ariz., and it was amazing to me, given all the grief that I saw, that
there could be that kind of anger and that kind of ignorance. That struck me as
an important story and it had always been in my mind. I was researching my
thesis project and there was this spate of shootings of Sikh cab drivers in the
Bay Area, and that story of how the Sikh community is being treated suddenly
became urgent to me, so that was the inspiration.
Q: How did you approach the people in your film?
A That was so easy to do. I just went to a cab stand at the BART station and
they just grew immediately welcoming, interested and supportive. It was the
easiest thing to me. I met a lot of them and made some good friends.
Q: What has the response been to the film?
A So far, very good. It's still an important consideration, how minorities are
treated in this country given the current situation. I'm going to be having some
screenings in the Sikh temple in El Sobrante in November and they seem very warm
and supportive. ... I plan to distribute the film to whoever finds it useful.
It's been getting into festivals and there's been some interest, which is nice.
Q: What do you hope audiences take away from the film?
A That nobody can claim to be free from prejudice, and that all communities have
an identity and a voice, and that we should be careful of that and the judgments
we make. It's just amazing how subtle prejudice is and how damaging ignorance
Sikhs and the City
Category Factual & Arts
There are enough Sikhs in Britain to fill the Royal Albert Hall one hundred
Many wear brightly coloured clothes, play loud sacred music and never cut their
hair, yet little is known about their teachings and culture. Narrated by
Goodness Gracious Me star Kulvinder Ghir, Sikhs and the City offers a rare and
entertaining day-in-the-life snapshot of one of Britain's biggest, but least
understood, faith communities as they celebrate the 400th anniversary of their
holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib.
Striking a balance between a Sikh identity and a British one is an issue that
affects scores of Sikhs in western society every day.
Sikhs have a strong moral code and an identity which is exhibited through what
are known as the five K's - long hair, a comb, a sword, the wearing of a bangle
and a specially-tailored undergarment. For some this strong identity is at
the heart of their Sikhism while others take a more relaxed approach, believing
it is what is on the inside that counts.
PC Harvinder Singh Rai, an officer with West Midlands Police, thinks he has got
the balance just right: "I am fiercely loyal as an officer to West Midlands
Police but I am equally at home with my faith. They are in perfect harmony."
The programme follows PC Rai on his beat as he deals with troublesome
schoolchildren and as he gives his fellow officer a taste of the Sikh faith at a
local temple. Radio journalist Sonia Deol's version of Sikhism is far less
strict than her mother's. She cuts her hair and wears modern clothes but for her
being a good Sikh is all about the values she holds within. This is also
true for Sikh scholar Jeevan Singh Deol, who says his identity is western but
his religion is Sikhism. In contrast Sikh comedian, Sody Singh Kahlon,
believes abandoning the Sikh identity is going against the teachings of the
faith itself. For others being a Sikh in modern society doesn't mean
abandoning one for the other. As a 93-year-old marathon runner, Fauja
Singh is a traditional Sikh. But he is also a 'poster boy' for the latest Adidas
campaign. The twin artists Amrit and Rabindra Singh reflect in their work
the dual cultural heritage that many British Sikhs have grown up with. The
programme also explores the saint-soldier tradition which is at the heart of the
faith, the reason why Sikhs carry short swords and why all Sikh men are given
the name 'Singh' - meaning lion. Having started the day at 5.00am with
prayers, the programme closes as the Guru Granth Sahib - which is treated as
though it were a living guru - is placed tenderly back into its four poster bed
for the night.
Sikhs and the City - BBC