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40 Years of Radical Media

   

Dastaar: Defending Sikh Identity

Produced and Directed by Kevin Lee
Associate Producer Josh Weisbrot
Editor Helen Yum
Part of the Third World Newsreel
Call for Change Series
J.T. Takagi, Series Producer

Dastaar: Defending Sikh Identity presents the struggle of the Sikh American community against discrimination and violence caused by ignorance of an essential symbol of the Sikh faith -- the dastaar , or turban.

The documentary begins by observing the simple, quiet act of putting on the dastaar, a daily ritual imbued with the Sikh values of honor, discipline and faith. The solemnity of this ritual contrasts with recent incidents of violence and discrimination against Sikhs due to the wearing of the dastaar , which all Sikh men are required to wear at all times in public. Such incidents include the vicious attack on Gurcharan Singh and Rajinder Singh Khalsa by five men after being accused of being terrorists, two NYPD officers who left the force after refusing the order to remove their dastaars while on duty, and a subway operator who wore his dastaar for 20 years until being recently ordered to remove his dastaar.

Even though Sikhs have no relationship with the terrorist networks of the Middle East, they are often mistaken as terrorists due to their wearing turbans. The film explores how images in the media fuel the association of the turban with terrorism, leading to the widespread discrimination against Sikhs. The film also shows the efforts made by the Sikh community to counter this discrimination through a combination of community activism, legal action, legislation and education.

Images from Dastaar: Defending Sikh Identity (click any image to view full size)
San Diego Asian Film Festival, Best Documentary Short
Eureka! International Film Festival, Best Documentary Short
Dallas Asian Short Film Festival, Best Documentary Short
Hawaii International Film Festival
Newport Beach International Film Festival
AFI/Discovery Channel Silverdocs Film Festival
San Francisco International Asian American International Film Festival
New York Asian American International Film Festival
VC Los Angeles Asian American International Film Festival

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