Sneak Preview, California

Today, California’s first Spinning Wheel Film Festival was held in Orange County, California. On the eve of the festival, the Sikh Center of Orange County held a gala banquet and organizer Bicky Singh invited us to offer a SNEAK PREVIEW of Divided We Fall. Our director/editor/producer extraordinaire Sharat Raju cut together a brand-new seven-minute trailer, weaving together voices and faces from the film with music from the film’s original score created by composer Sagar Jethani. (The sneak preview will be featured on the film’s official website at the end of January.)

After a night of bhangra performances, slide shows, and speeches, our sneak preview screened before the gathering of hundreds. I held my breathe as it played to a hushed audience, then applause. Nitasha Sawhney, a Sikh lawyer and advocate, a friend and sister, introduced me onto the stage. I told the story behind the making of the film and asked the community to support their artists, musicians, storytellers: “Stories are a matter of life and death. Without our stories, we are invisible in the world and to each other. The site of social transformation does not lie at the top levels of government but in the space between us.”

California’s Lieutenant Governor CRUZ BUSTAMANTE (pictured) was in the audience as an honorary guest for his work supporting the California Sikh American community after 9/11. He asked to speak with me. I was humbled by his earnest and excited support for the documentary. “If it’s anything like the trailer, it’s going be amazing,” he said. We went on to talk about how the problem of discrimination affects many immigrant communities, especially during times of crisis. Pulling the lens back further, all new Americans have faced resistance and persecution in this country alongside faith in the American dream.

There was an energetic exchange of stories and thoughts, and then his face became somber. “You know, I feel that my generation has failed you. And I am sorry for that. We needed to do more to fight for the rights and recognitions of all communities. And now it’s up to people like you. People like you give me hope.”

He offered to help host a California premiere when the film is complete, and I walked away thinking, people like him give me hope. People who believe in the talent and vision of younger people and who offer actual tangible support to help them be heard. I believe that my generation needs this kind of real faith if we are not to fail the generation to come after us. You can help.

On the day of the festival, our director Sharat Raju screened his previous film, the award-winning American Made to an engaged audience. Lead actor Bernard White and editor Scott Rosenblatt (also editor of our film) were in the audience and stayed to watch the other films. They were moved by the colorful independent movies exploring Sikh experiences, still on the verge of emerging into American mainstream consciousness.

Thanks to my parents (pictured laughing!), my cousin and sister Andrea Gill, and friends Kathy Jennings and Akta Patel for coming to support us once again. And congratulations to Bicky Singh, Nitasha Sawhney, and all behind California’s first Spinning Wheel Film Festival for a successful sold-out event.