SIKH INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2009: SHORT FILM
Director/Producer: Sartaj Singh Dhami
In 2004, France passed a law banning all conspicuous religious symbols worn by students in public schools. Irremovable articles of faith, such as the Sikh turban, were included in the ban.
Sikh students had to give up their faith, or give up their education. Many were forced to drop out, in the name of 'secularism.’ Even though Sikh soldiers were received as heroes in Marseilles in World War I, the Sikh turban is banned in France.
The following video editorial, in the form of a music video, artistically challenges the current regulations invoked in the French public school system. The video also challenges France's motto of "Fraternity, Liberty, and Equality", all the while educates non-Sikhs about Sikh practices and Sikh history.
Born and raised in the suburbs of Washington DC, Sartaj graduated with an electrical engineering degree from Virginia Tech. He currently utilizes his engineering expertise to aide towards identifying solutions to complex technical problems with one of the largest engineering firms in the United States.
Aside from his professional life, Sartaj is an active member in the local Sikh community of Washington DC. He is known to help by working closely with Non-Sikh organizations to strengthen community bonds, as well as being a principle organizer and facilitator for many Sikh youth activities.
However, Sartaj is also known to be an instrumental advocate for bringing educational awareness to society about Sikhism. Whether in Blacksburg or Washington DC, he has aided in bringing attention to sensitive issues to many various Sikh advocacy groups. Considering himself as one of the many “trench workers,” some of Sartaj’s silent contributions have been vocalizing misrepresentation of Sikhism in various media outlets (from video games to magazines), as well as co-organizing a youth lead memorial service for Sgt. Uday Singh of the US Army. He has volunteered with the Sikh American Legal Defense & Education Fund, and played an active role in organizing the Sikh Council On Religion & Education’s Capitol Hill Heritage Dinner.
In 2000, alongside his friends, Sartaj started to experiment with the idea of filmmaking. Several years later in 2003, he went on to release the underground smash hit “Gatka 1: The Experimentation.” This short film became an Internet viral video highlight among the Sikh community and was viewed throughout the world. In 2006, his “Sikh on the Street” video project, which polled Americans on their perspectives on who Sikhs are by secretly disguising itself as an educational tool, was a worldwide success. The filmed reached nearly 100,000 views on YouTube.com.
His most recent project “turBAN,” co-created by and featuring the emerging Sikh hip hop group of G.N.E., tackles the turban ban issue being faced by Sikhs in France. The short film is a music video featuring the music of G.N.E., and challenges the viewer to the Sikh perspective on this unnecessary and unjust ban on the Sikh turban.
After creating several more shorts, Sartaj formed Dashmesh Pictures as a creative outlet dedicated to portraying Sikhism in a positive manner. Sartaj is passionate for creating this organization, which is open to all, so that the next Sikh “Steven Spielberg” can be found.