The Roxie – San Francisco

It was like coming home. Our San Francisco premiere at the Third I Film Festival was our first screening in California, and looking out into the packed audience in the city’s famous Roxie Theater, I was overwhelmed by the image of my parents, cousins, friends, professors, interviewees, and strangers standing up together to applaud our film at the end. It was our fifth standing ovation – and the tears couldn’t help but come.

We had just flown through the night from Miami the night before to make our Sunday morning premiere in San Francisco. We were tired and barely made the screening on time, but we were energized the moment we stepped into the Roxie and took in the audience. Kulwinder Dol, long-time friend and supporter, introduced us and the film began. It was one of our best screening to date – the image and sound quality of the film were superb, the audience was alive, and afterward we felt the outpouring of warmth.

The post-film discussion was hosted by the South Asian Journalists Association. Sharat spoke about the making of the film. People in the audience discussed the need for solidarity movements and ways to build strong ties between the community and media. We received several more invitations for screenings in the Bay Area, including one at Stanford University in the spring. A woman who made the trip from Atlanta expressed her pride and gratitude for “the best film she’s ever seen.”

Then there was the long list of thank-yous. Sharat and I were able to recognize the handful of remarkable people in the audience without whose support, the film would not have been possible. We began with people in the film. Linda Hess, my Stanford advisor, now mentor and friend, whose words set me off “into the whirlwind.” Jayashri Srikantiah, Stanford law professor who provides some of the film’s best analysis. Nitasha Sawhney (pictured with Sharat and me), a Sikh lawyer interviewed in the film and our dear friend. And Mandeep Singh Dhillon, a Sikh lawyer who appears in the film leading a rally on the steps of the California state capitol.

Then there were people who helped make the film. Andrew Chung, the first person who worked with me on editing the film, credited as production consultant, but who I’ve deemed as life manager. Karuna Tanahashi, a friend and artist in her own right who filmed Linda’s interview. Sanjeev Brar, who filmed the last moving scene with the widow in India (he’s also my brother, pictured.) Kathy Jennings, production assistant and dear family friend. Sharon Gibson, the film’s story consultant.

And finally my parents – Dolly and Judge Brar, who saw the film for the first time that morning. I continue to be astounded and deeply grateful for their unending support.

Afterward, we celebrated.

Pictured left to right: Sanjeev Brar (my brother), Sharmila Gill (my cousin), Sharat Raju (DWF director), Sharon Gibson (DWF story consultant), Kathy Jennings (DWF production assistant), Ravi (friend), Dolly Brar (my mother), John Tebbets (long-time friend), me and my father Judge Brar.

Thank you to Ivan Jaigirdar and all at San Francisco’s Third I Film Festival for hosting an incredible screening!