This article was originally published on SG Asia City
When their nine year-old daughter asked them what it meant to be Sikh, Singapore-based entrepreneur Satinder Garcha (of Hotel Vagabond fame) and his lawyer wife Harpreet Bedi knew a full answer would take some time. Thus began Under The Turban, a documentary that took the family from Canada to Italy to Singapore, meeting with Sikh communities and posing the very same question. The film will have its premier at the international UN Association Film Festival. Here the family talk to us about what it was like on shoot, and why the film is so important.
What do you want viewers to take away from this film?
Satinder: We envisioned it to be an educational film with a social message, that would help both non-Sikhs and younger Sikhs learn more about the philosophy and values behind Sikhism, beyond the rituals.
Harpreet: As a mother of four children, three of whom are girls, I also wanted to ensure that people learn more about Sikhism’s tenets of equality – you never see a shrinking Sikh woman.
Harpeet: We really hope that in a multicultural and multi-religious society like Singapore, people will be able to enjoy the film in the educational spirit that it was intended. It’s one thing to have religious tolerance, but understanding is a much more important goal to reach.
How did you manage to take the time off and even include your daughter Zara on the shoot?
Satinder: We created the film very organically, inviting Mike Rogers and Meghan Shea from Persistent Productions along on our family travels over the course of a number of years. It wasn’t done in one long holiday. Instead, we arranged to meet with Sikh communities depending on where we were already planning to explore.
What does Zara has to say about the entire experience since she sparked the idea for the documentary?
Zara: The filming experience was great, apart from being able to travel to many amazing places with my family, I was able to visit many cultural and important landmarks and religious monuments. A moment that particularly captures my heart was visiting the Sikh temple in America. The Sikh temple had a shooting there. Many people were killed and shot down. This spoke to me as I was able to talk to victims and witnesses, so it was really eye-opening. I learned about how people discriminate against different religions and Sikh people are often mistaken as Islamic terrorists. I took away a lot from the film as I learnt a lot about myself, my family’s roots and what is means to be the religion I am. I feel more comfortable with myself and I feel like I have gained an understanding of my religion as a whole.
What was your reaction when your film was picked to be part of the UN Association Film Festival?
Satinder: We were thrilled! The UN Association Film Festival is among the oldest and most prestigious documentary-only festivals in the US, and possibly even the world. For the judging committee to choose our film for this year’s line-up out of a pool of almost 700 entrants, was a big coup. We always hoped that Under The Turban would have a very diverse audience, and this is a huge step towards realizing that dream.
Were there any moments during filming that captured your heart?
Harpeet: There were so many. Off the top of our heads, we’d just like to give a shout out to the Sikh Motorcycle Club in Vancouver for being such fantastic people
When do you think the film will be available in Singapore?
Satinder: Distribution is still in the works, but we definitely have plans to show it at Hôtel Vagabond in the near future. We held a private screening there for friends and family earlier this year, and everyone loved watching it in the glamorous Vagabond Salon, so we want to recreate that magic. If you want to know when it’ll happen, follow our hotel on Facebook.