AMERICAN SIKH (Tribeca 2023) – Review by Beth Accomando

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This short animated (with brief home video footage) film is a clever, provocative, and poignant exploration of identity. Vishavjit Singh (voicing the main character) recounts his personal story of being an American-born, turban-wearing Sikh who has had to deal with prejudice his entire life, and how he saw that prejudice turn violent after the events of 9/11. He tries removing his turban to try to fit in better but ultimately he takes the inspired and sort of crazy idea of dressing up as a superhero. But one of his own creation – Sikh Captain America!

The animation has a definite comic book vibe but with stylish flourishes and emotional impact. Scenes of violence are rendered in black and white with jolts of red while the images of Sikh Captain America pop with color and comic book energy.

Although less than ten minutes in length, Singh and co-writer/director Ryan Westra pack a lot into the story to convey how it feels to face hatred and bigotry. Sometimes it is through a simple image of Singh’s alter ego in a car waiting at a stop light and feeling the withering stare of another driver who sees only his turban and “otherness” and not the person he is. But then Singh also confides in us how he feels, the doubts he has, how he tries to change to fit but only feels worse and more isolated.

In a film festival, a short film can get lost among all the features and the more buzzworthy talent. But if you can make time for American Sikh then you will be rewarded.

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Beth Accomando

Beth Accomando is host of KPBS Cinema Junkie Podcast and author of the blog Cinema Junkie. She also programs film series and events as part of Film Geeks SD at venues such as Museum of Photographic Arts and Digital Gym Cinema. She loves horror, zombies, kaiju and film noir.