A Look at the Spinning Wheel

I spent the past weekend surrounded by Sikh Art and Film at the annual Spinning Wheel Film Festival in Hollywood. I usually attend these events with high expectations, hoping to be inspired and moved and there are always one or two films that provide that sustenance. The films were creative, such as The Making of Liverpool – an artistic animation inspired by a painting by The Singh Twins which explores 800 years of Liverpool’s history. The films were educational, such as Cultural Safari – directed by Sandeep Singh and produced by the Kaur Foundation – describing the basics of Sikhi for children of all ages [I have to say that this is one of the most impressive educational films I have come across]. The films were also daunting, such as Warrior Boyz – made by Baljit Sangra which touched upon the root causes of gang violence in the Punjabi community of Vancouver. A favorite of the crowd was Kuldip Powar’s Unravelling – a poetic inter-generational dialogue between the film director and his grandfather about the experience of war all posed in Urdu poetry.

There were many other well-made films such as 35, Kabaddi Cops, and Right to Turban which rightfully deserve mention (and have been discussed or will be discussed in future posts), however what I appreciated most about the weekend was the final day of the festival – which was devoted to lectures on Sikh Art and History. Staff from the Anglo Sikh Heritage Trail and other UK-based organizations presented the attendees with a glimpse into the historical legacy of the Sikhs. One of the lectures was titled the Epic of Saragarhi and discussed the 21 soldiers of the Sikh regiment who defended a remote post against an estimated 10,000 hostile tribesmen. Michael O’Keefe from the British Library discussed Sikh artifacts and paintings and detailed an image of Maharani Jindan Kaur’s Gutka of the Sukhmani Sahib (see picture to the left). The day ended with a panel showcasing Sikhs in Theatre and Music, including traditional music and also hip-hop. Mandeep Sethi and Jagmeet Singh, rappers from LA, ended the festival with amazing performances showcasing their incredible talent of telling stories through hip-hop.

While the film festival brought together a plethora of Sikh art mediums – what it did seem to be missing was the representation of women and the voice of women in these films. The films were predominately made by men and the issues discussed were predominately issues affecting men. This brought several issues to mind – do young Sikh women not feel encouraged to enter the field of Film? Do the current male Sikh filmmakers not feel comfortable telling the story of Sikh women? It seems to be of vital importance that as we develop and promote Sikh films, we ensure that the stories we tell are representative of the entire Sikh panth and pay particular attention to the stories of Sikh women.

I will leave with this quote, mentioned by Harbinder Singh of the Anglo Sikh Heritage Trail, but also very pertinent to the theme of this weekend’s film festival.

Until lions tell their own history,
History will always glorify the hunters.
– African Proverb


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16 Responses to “A Look at the Spinning Wheel”

  1. Quattro says:

    My man Jagmeet Singh Verbalizes like no other

    I on the other hand Herbalize like no other

    SWED

  2. Quattro says:

    My man Jagmeet Singh Verbalizes like no other
    I on the other hand Herbalize like no other

    SWED

  3. JSD says:

    I'm Back!

    I also attended the film festival this last weekend and unlike many people I am full of surprises and wasn't too happy with the festival. As I may have stated repeatedly before our people need to get their priorities straight. This article highlighted the film "turban pride" which was humorous, barely, but didn't do much in the area of pride. This article talks about concerns of women producing films, how about the fact that anyone can produce these films like turban pride. Sweet Amerika was an awesome movie for its budget but I am sick of movies showing Sikhs as glorified peace lovers and in this movie stating Gandhi was a great man and such. Although it is merely my opinion when it comes to Gandhi, it is a fact that no Sikh that I know of gets attacked, beat up, and crawls in a ball when an agressor attacks. I don't know a single Sikh kid who doesn't stand up and fight. Instead we make movies with American flags in the back ground, and wear red white and blue paghs, AND we file court cases when people rip our paghs off. Who the hell lets someone rip their pagh off?? We need to stop this fake Sikh persona in the media. We are peaceful people but we are warriors, or are we? Warriors fight, warriors don't back down. Well I may have gone off topic, so back to the festival. Why did I see Sikhs adressing other Sikhs by saying "Seeekhs"? Why do we say "Turban" to other "Seeekhs" when we can say pagh. The worst of all this is the fact that there was an AFTER PARTY. I am not against parties, I love parties, but parties have their time and place. A dinner at which there would be a Q and A session would be more appropriate- a party involves so many other things- things that would be the opposite of the messages conveyed at this festival. The volunteers were like 15 years old and were more excited about the party and defending the party than anything else. This festival had the same faces I would see at any other southern California Sikh event. There is no diversity- it is a predominately Khatri (bhappa) crowd, and seems as if no other community is really involved. Maybe more efforst should be taken to involve others, teaching the same people the same thing over and over will get us no where. It seems as if we ignore most and dwell on teaching a few.

    Following all the angry replies, I will address my responses in more detail.

    Things need to be changed- I am not perfect, neither are you, but for me not to be blunt and explicit in my writings on this forum will mean that I am not being honest and truthful to myself.

    If any of these comments have offended anyone my apologizes in advance, but do understand that something must be wrong or why would I say such things?

  4. JSD says:

    I’m Back!

    I also attended the film festival this last weekend and unlike many people I am full of surprises and wasn’t too happy with the festival. As I may have stated repeatedly before our people need to get their priorities straight. This article highlighted the film “turban pride” which was humorous, barely, but didn’t do much in the area of pride. This article talks about concerns of women producing films, how about the fact that anyone can produce these films like turban pride. Sweet Amerika was an awesome movie for its budget but I am sick of movies showing Sikhs as glorified peace lovers and in this movie stating Gandhi was a great man and such. Although it is merely my opinion when it comes to Gandhi, it is a fact that no Sikh that I know of gets attacked, beat up, and crawls in a ball when an agressor attacks. I don’t know a single Sikh kid who doesn’t stand up and fight. Instead we make movies with American flags in the back ground, and wear red white and blue paghs, AND we file court cases when people rip our paghs off. Who the hell lets someone rip their pagh off?? We need to stop this fake Sikh persona in the media. We are peaceful people but we are warriors, or are we? Warriors fight, warriors don’t back down. Well I may have gone off topic, so back to the festival. Why did I see Sikhs adressing other Sikhs by saying “Seeekhs”? Why do we say “Turban” to other “Seeekhs” when we can say pagh. The worst of all this is the fact that there was an AFTER PARTY. I am not against parties, I love parties, but parties have their time and place. A dinner at which there would be a Q and A session would be more appropriate- a party involves so many other things- things that would be the opposite of the messages conveyed at this festival. The volunteers were like 15 years old and were more excited about the party and defending the party than anything else. This festival had the same faces I would see at any other southern California Sikh event. There is no diversity- it is a predominately Khatri (bhappa) crowd, and seems as if no other community is really involved. Maybe more efforst should be taken to involve others, teaching the same people the same thing over and over will get us no where. It seems as if we ignore most and dwell on teaching a few.

    Following all the angry replies, I will address my responses in more detail.

    Things need to be changed- I am not perfect, neither are you, but for me not to be blunt and explicit in my writings on this forum will mean that I am not being honest and truthful to myself.

    If any of these comments have offended anyone my apologizes in advance, but do understand that something must be wrong or why would I say such things?

  5. Nina Kaur says:

    I also attended the SWFF in Hollywood, CA and volunteered. I am not 15 years old (almost twice that) and I chose not to attend the Saturday night after party so I could enjoy the Sunday art/artist presentations. I really enjoyed the festival, but I know there is always room for improvement, as it's an ongoing learning process. My non-Sikhs friends who I brought along also learned quite a bit.

    The Singh Twins, Amrit and Rabindra, were amazing, not just b/c of their talent, but also b/c they have broken through many barriers in the art world – keeping away from being labeled as "ethnic" artists and using the Western "Past Modern" style to highlight Sikhs and Punjabis in their artwork. The rapper-MCs, Jagmeet "Hoodini" Singh and Mandeep Sethi, along with the other artists from the last "Creative Sikhs!" panel on Sunday drove home the fact that we have so much talent in our Sikh community.

    I do agree that there were many more male centered films and it would be great to see a male-female balance (as it would be in many other aspects of our culture and the way our religion is practiced). Overall, I really liked what Laura Kim, former exec VP of Warner Independent, had to say: She said that in order for Sikhs to be a regular face in the media, the community has to show that they support their Sikh film makers, actors/actresses and artists. Without the community bringing out the numbers to the box office, the Hollywood bigwigs won't even consider producing/funding/or writing in a Sikh role. It really starts with us making films, being artists, supporting each other and spreading the word. There will be a time when it is no surprise that a Sikh is in a movie, on tv, in a magazine, or on a billboard, and it's our ongoing support of the talent we have to make it happen.

  6. Nina Kaur says:

    I also attended the SWFF in Hollywood, CA and volunteered. I am not 15 years old (almost twice that) and I chose not to attend the Saturday night after party so I could enjoy the Sunday art/artist presentations. I really enjoyed the festival, but I know there is always room for improvement, as it’s an ongoing learning process. My non-Sikhs friends who I brought along also learned quite a bit.

    The Singh Twins, Amrit and Rabindra, were amazing, not just b/c of their talent, but also b/c they have broken through many barriers in the art world – keeping away from being labeled as “ethnic” artists and using the Western “Past Modern” style to highlight Sikhs and Punjabis in their artwork. The rapper-MCs, Jagmeet “Hoodini” Singh and Mandeep Sethi, along with the other artists from the last “Creative Sikhs!” panel on Sunday drove home the fact that we have so much talent in our Sikh community.

    I do agree that there were many more male centered films and it would be great to see a male-female balance (as it would be in many other aspects of our culture and the way our religion is practiced). Overall, I really liked what Laura Kim, former exec VP of Warner Independent, had to say: She said that in order for Sikhs to be a regular face in the media, the community has to show that they support their Sikh film makers, actors/actresses and artists. Without the community bringing out the numbers to the box office, the Hollywood bigwigs won’t even consider producing/funding/or writing in a Sikh role. It really starts with us making films, being artists, supporting each other and spreading the word. There will be a time when it is no surprise that a Sikh is in a movie, on tv, in a magazine, or on a billboard, and it’s our ongoing support of the talent we have to make it happen.

  7. Sikh Swim says:

    Sundari, you were there and you didn't say hi? Where's the blogger love? 😉

    Hey JSD — it was my hope that "Turban Pride" would show that we as Sikhs take "pride" in making our dastaars perfect. Most non-Sikhs are surprised and enlightened by the film. Anyway your criticism is well-taken; you're right, you could have made a similar if not better film and I encourage you to do it!

    Like Nina I also appreciated Laura Kim's comments. The only way to produce bigger waves in the creative community is to support Sikh artists and filmmakers. Having attended both the New York and Toronto festivals I can say that the LA festival was the 'best' overall — edging out the others with better attendance, more diverse programming, and a great venue.

    Granted, we all have our criticisms, but again, the festival was definitely a huge step in the right direction and I give it my full respect and support.

  8. Sikh Swim says:

    Sundari, you were there and you didn’t say hi? Where’s the blogger love? 😉

    Hey JSD — it was my hope that “Turban Pride” would show that we as Sikhs take “pride” in making our dastaars perfect. Most non-Sikhs are surprised and enlightened by the film. Anyway your criticism is well-taken; you’re right, you could have made a similar if not better film and I encourage you to do it!

    Like Nina I also appreciated Laura Kim’s comments. The only way to produce bigger waves in the creative community is to support Sikh artists and filmmakers. Having attended both the New York and Toronto festivals I can say that the LA festival was the ‘best’ overall — edging out the others with better attendance, more diverse programming, and a great venue.

    Granted, we all have our criticisms, but again, the festival was definitely a huge step in the right direction and I give it my full respect and support.

  9. VKaur says:

    My sister went to this event. She said the overall festival was great but the Friday night events were not done well, surprising considering the price of the ticket.

  10. VKaur says:

    My sister went to this event. She said the overall festival was great but the Friday night events were not done well, surprising considering the price of the ticket.

  11. Aman says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at the SWFF. I applaud the volunteers, regardless of their age, for putting in their time and participating in this event. It is very easy for us to criticize an organization that is attempting to create an open forum to showcase Sikh talent. How about supporting organizations like this, and if you do have some constructive advice, get in touch the organization's management and let them know. They won't know how to make improvements unless you tell them from your point of view. I was very inspired by the Sikh youth in attendance at the event.

  12. Aman says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at the SWFF. I applaud the volunteers, regardless of their age, for putting in their time and participating in this event. It is very easy for us to criticize an organization that is attempting to create an open forum to showcase Sikh talent. How about supporting organizations like this, and if you do have some constructive advice, get in touch the organization’s management and let them know. They won’t know how to make improvements unless you tell them from your point of view. I was very inspired by the Sikh youth in attendance at the event.

  13. BKaur says:

    Hello,

    I also attended the festival, and was a volunteer. JSD, I am neither 15 years old, nor was I preoccupied/excited with the after event. However, had you attended, you would have seen that the festival committee really put effort to ensure that the after "party" was in compliance with the messages conveyed at the festival. I think you should check your facts prior to criticizing. And, if you do have something constructive/a critique to say (as I know that the committee is very open to improving the festival year after year), please address them appropriately rather than making comments that get us as a community nowhere (i.e. there's no community involvement other than bhappe). If certain individuals choose to get involved, do not complain that others are not. In fact, we did have a mix of people who not only volunteered but also attended all three days of the festival.

    Also, your closing sentence that "something must be wrong or why would I say such things" seems unnecessary and not necessarily true. Simply because you personally have issues or concerns with various aspects that have (or actually don't have) to do with the festival itself, does not mean that it is the fault of the festival. As Sikh Swim and Aman both addressed, it should be applauded that people dedicated A LOT of time and effort to such an event, and by simply stating negative aspects (rather than providing solid advice or offering help), we get nowhere as a community. I believe that we should try to grow together as a community rather than attacking one another. Offer help if you can rather than simply criticizing.

    I appreciate that you came to the festival, and hope you continue to do so in the future. Also, if you do have constructive criticism that will help the festival improve, I invite that. Please just be sure you do so after checking your facts and by adding insight to the solution. Thanks.

  14. BKaur says:

    Hello,

    I also attended the festival, and was a volunteer. JSD, I am neither 15 years old, nor was I preoccupied/excited with the after event. However, had you attended, you would have seen that the festival committee really put effort to ensure that the after “party” was in compliance with the messages conveyed at the festival. I think you should check your facts prior to criticizing. And, if you do have something constructive/a critique to say (as I know that the committee is very open to improving the festival year after year), please address them appropriately rather than making comments that get us as a community nowhere (i.e. there’s no community involvement other than bhappe). If certain individuals choose to get involved, do not complain that others are not. In fact, we did have a mix of people who not only volunteered but also attended all three days of the festival.

    Also, your closing sentence that “something must be wrong or why would I say such things” seems unnecessary and not necessarily true. Simply because you personally have issues or concerns with various aspects that have (or actually don’t have) to do with the festival itself, does not mean that it is the fault of the festival. As Sikh Swim and Aman both addressed, it should be applauded that people dedicated A LOT of time and effort to such an event, and by simply stating negative aspects (rather than providing solid advice or offering help), we get nowhere as a community. I believe that we should try to grow together as a community rather than attacking one another. Offer help if you can rather than simply criticizing.

    I appreciate that you came to the festival, and hope you continue to do so in the future. Also, if you do have constructive criticism that will help the festival improve, I invite that. Please just be sure you do so after checking your facts and by adding insight to the solution. Thanks.

  15. JSD says:

    Nowhere did I say that it was a BAD festival. and the facts are facts. I got a facebook message saying come to the OFFICIAL SPINNING FILM FESTIVAL AFTER PARTY 18 enter, 21 to drink. And I had plenty of volunteers defending the after party. On top of this maybe I exaggerated the age problem but that doesn't take away from the community thing.

    You said that CERTAIN INDIVIDUALS choose to get involved, do not complain that others are not.

    Wow.

    So, that only proves my point about ONE community based operative i.e Bhappe or whatever. Seriously???? dont complain that others are not?

    Im sorry that your community is the only one that does anything. I went to watch a film festival and I liked the movie I saw, and Im sure much more will be offered in the future, but the "uppity" crowd, the ridiculous prices to watch a cluster, the high class atmosphere is just ridiculous.

    Accept the criticism as a way to improve, not to get angry- defend the film festival and such.

    And about getting involved, I just spent my last 4 years in Southern California, going to school, helping out in various SSA events, and Sikh organizations and not once did I get an invitation to come help all I got was come pay and watch the film festival.

    The volunteers all seemed to be the same faces I've seen in every southern california Sikh event, that is no coincidence.

    JSD.

  16. JSD says:

    Nowhere did I say that it was a BAD festival. and the facts are facts. I got a facebook message saying come to the OFFICIAL SPINNING FILM FESTIVAL AFTER PARTY 18 enter, 21 to drink. And I had plenty of volunteers defending the after party. On top of this maybe I exaggerated the age problem but that doesn’t take away from the community thing.

    You said that CERTAIN INDIVIDUALS choose to get involved, do not complain that others are not.

    Wow.

    So, that only proves my point about ONE community based operative i.e Bhappe or whatever. Seriously???? dont complain that others are not?

    Im sorry that your community is the only one that does anything. I went to watch a film festival and I liked the movie I saw, and Im sure much more will be offered in the future, but the “uppity” crowd, the ridiculous prices to watch a cluster, the high class atmosphere is just ridiculous.

    Accept the criticism as a way to improve, not to get angry- defend the film festival and such.

    And about getting involved, I just spent my last 4 years in Southern California, going to school, helping out in various SSA events, and Sikh organizations and not once did I get an invitation to come help all I got was come pay and watch the film festival.

    The volunteers all seemed to be the same faces I’ve seen in every southern california Sikh event, that is no coincidence.

    JSD.