- By Mabel Pais
Dirs: Ryan Westra & Vishvajit Singh; USA; English; Short; 10m
2023 Academy Award Winner GUNEET MONGA KAPOOR with
Michelin-starred Chef and Filmmaker VIKAS KHANNA Executive Produce
OSCAR® Qualified Animated Short AMERICAN SIKH
‘AMERICAN SIKH,’ directors Ryan Westra and Vishvajit Singh teamed up to bring more diverse representation and experiences into today’s media and to challenge perceptions of what an American (and a superhero) can look like.
2023 Academy Award winner Guneet Monga Kapoor (‘The Elephant Whisperers’) and one of Vanity Fair’s top ten chefs Vikas Khanna serve as Executive Producers for this important film.
Vishavjit Singh is publicly known for his Captain America persona — a Sikh man equipped with his turban and beard — fighting against bigotry, intolerance and perceptions of what an American should look like. But Singh, the only member of his family born in the U.S., didn’t always feel he could embrace his identity this way.
The true and unlikely story of an American born, turban-wearing Sikh man, Vishavjit Singh, who after a lifetime of facing prejudice, self-doubt and violence, finally finds acceptance in a superhero costume.
Guneet Monga Kapoor
Voted as one of the top 12 women achievers in the Global Entertainment industry by The Hollywood Reporter and among the top 50 Indians changing India by ‘India Today,’ Guneet has been a force to reckon with and a game-changing producer in Indian cinema. Guneet is an Indian film producer, a BAFTA nominee and amongst the first producers from India to be inducted in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. She is the recipient of the Global Media Makers fellowship by Film Independent and the US Department of State’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs. In 2019, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation awarded her the prestigious Sloan Science and Film grant. Guneet Monga Kapoor is a trailblazing filmmaker, not only is she the first producer in India to win an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short for ‘The Elephant Whisperers,’ she is also one of the first producers from India to be inducted into the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Science.
Guneet is the founder of Sikhya Entertainment, a Mumbai-based production house. She has produced close to 30 feature films including ground-breaking cinema such as ‘Lunchbox,’ ‘Monsoon,’ ‘Shootout,’ and ‘Massan,’ to name a few. She was one of the Executive Producers behind ‘Period. End of Sentence.’ which won an Academy Award in 2019.
Vikas Khanna is an internationally acclaimed Indian American Michelin-starred chef, filmmaker, and author. He is a James Beard nominee and one of the first Indian chefs to be awarded a Michelin Star in the U.S. He has been featured amongst the 10 most influential chefs in the world by Vanity Fair. Vikas is the author of 41 award winning books, and the creator of ‘Holy Kitchens’ creating awareness of Sikhism through community kitchens. ‘The Last Color’ marks Khanna’s debut as a film writer and director, which raised awareness of the disinheritance of widows, whilst ‘Barefoot Empress’ focussed on education for girls in India.
Learn more about directors Ryan Westra, Vishvajit Singh and the film at americansikhfilm.com.
AGAINST THE TIDE
Dir: Sarvnik Kaur; Exec Prod: Mira Nair; 2023; India, France; Koli, Marathi, Hindi; 1h 37m
Winner – Sundance Film Festival Special Jury Award
Nominee – Gotham Award for Best Documentary
Shortlisted – IDA Award for Best Feature Documentary
Opens in New York City on November 24
‘AGAINST THE TIDE’ is crafted from moments in the lives of Bombay fishermen Rakesh and Ganesh, inheritors of the great Koli knowledge system – a way to harvest the sea by following the moon and the tides.
Rakesh has kept faith in the traditional fishing methods while Ganesh has strayed away from them, embracing technology. ‘Against the Tide’ is a tale of friendship and rising resentment between the two men, as close as brothers, against the backdrop of an adoring sea, which is increasingly turning hostile because of climate change.
Even as the fish become scarcer and the environment more hostile, the difference in their fishing techniques becomes the reflection of their different approach to life. Following the undulated life trajectories of Rakesh and Ganesh diligently and over a long period, the film weaves a story about the perpetuity and fragility of brotherhood, love, and a beautiful natural world that is being crushed under the menacing effects of climate change.
Sarvnik’s grandparents were born in Pakistan when the country was part of British India. In 1947, India and Pakistan were divided and the two countries entered into a mortal conflict which continues today.
Her grandfather’s family, Sikhs, fled Pakistan to a refugee camp in New Delhi, where her father was born. In 1984, her grandparents had managed to leave the camp and build a modest house, but it was completely destroyed during an anti-Sikh riot. She was one year old. Her family had to move again. She grew up with the trauma of these successive uprootings and a constant fear.
For the past ten years, she had lived next to a Koli village. This has allowed her to get closer to them, to witness their daily concerns. In 2016, when the regional authorities decided to transform their market into a commercial complex without consulting them, the ‘Collective of Women Fish Sellers’ immediately put up resistance. Sarvnik became actively involved with them and made some short films that they used to conduct their campaign. This is how her journey with the Kolis began. She has spent the last five years with the Koli community and has come to understand their lives — the conflicts and the joys — as a filmmaker, as an ethnologist, and now as a friend. With time and patience, both Sarvnik and the Kolis have established a relationship of trust.
By following the life of one and then the other, she hoped to make the film viewer question his own convictions and the choices he would have made himself if he had been in their place.
(Mabel Pais writes on Social Issues, The Arts and Entertainment, Spirituality, Education, Cuisine, Health & Wellness, and Business)