By Rebecca Huval
Filmmaker Sharat Raju is no stranger to the misperceptions that haunt the Sikh community. In 2003, he wrote and directed the Independent Lens short fiction film American Made about a Sikh family stranded in the desert. After the family’s car breaks down, passersby are reluctant to give them a ride because of the father’s turban. The two sons argue with their parents about what it means to wear a turban and how to live comfortably in America.
Since then, Raju and his wife and co-producer, Valarie Kaur, have been working on a documentary for the Yale Visual Law Project, The Worst of the Worst, about a Connecticut supermax prison where inmates are held in solitary confinement for years at a time. After the recent shootings at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, the couple paused their project to report on reactions to the tragedy among the Sikh community. A Sikh herself, Valarie Kaur has earned intimate access to Sikh families in Wisconsin. She has also published op-eds for CNN and The Washington Post. Meanwhile, Raju has interviewed families beside her and reflected on how his views of Sikhism have become more nuanced since the making of American Made. Continue reading