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14-year-old Angad Singh: Learning, Teaching Filmmaking



It was the winter of 2006 when she came to Atlanta and we met her for the first time. My mom, who was a volunteer organizer, had invited her to teach a Theater Workshop to the kids at the 2006 Gurmat Youth Camp.

Mom always says "We have got stories to tell".

Theatre Workshop was a radical idea of the two visionaries who wanted to promote importance of media to the Sikh youth. But it didn't fly very well with the traditional Gurmat Camp regimen and lead organizers.

The promoters of the idea faced lots of challenges, yet stood their ground.

With the limited amount of time, tremendous hurdles, misunderstanding of the motives and kids walking out on them, but support of some wonderful volunteers who thought out of the box, four beautiful plays came out of the camp.  The plays ... entirely written, directed, staged and acted by the kids ... moved the audience to tears. The power of story telling!

And that's not all that happened at that camp. It was, I would say, a beginning.

As she was leaving, she pleaded for all of the 125 youth attendees to make small films for the upcoming Sikhnet Youth Film Festival. Not for her sake, but for the sake of stories of Sikhs that needed to be told to the world.

One of them listened.

And yes, you guessed it right. It was me. One Light's seed was planted then because I listened to her (or was made to listen to her by my Mom).

Now that One Light is about to complete its First Anniversary, I thought this would be a perfect time to acknowledge the person who so selflessly travelled, volunteered her time away from her husband, faced all the objections head-on and motivated us to take a step in this direction. You have probably read about all the journeys that One Light has embarked on so far.

Shown in dozens of Film Festivals throughout USA and Canada, on cable TV and satellite, in schools and leadership seminars, youth camps and on internet, it has inspired hundreds of thousands of people around the world to take their steps towards making this world a better place.

More importantly, it has taught them about the peaceful message of Guru Nanak. It has shown very subtly to the audience who Sikhs are, and has taught them a thing or two about our identity.

Today, I want everyone to know that, it would not be possible if it were not for those departing, inspiring and very moving words of Ish Kaur.

"Angad, bacche (son)! You have to make a  film coming summer. I will be looking out for it".

Thank you, Ish Aunty, for throwing me into the water so that I could figure out how to swim. I did get mad at you at the time; because I did not have anything to hold onto and the task seemed impossible. You were far away and I had little help.

Mom had no clue on editing. The home camera, old laptop and crashing software kept trying to drown me. Mom and I had some major fights, because she was the one who really let you push me.

But one fine day it was over. One Light was complete and I had survived it.  (Although it had taken yet another Kaur to come over and convince me that it was a worthwhile work ready for sharing. If it were not for Gurudarshan Kaur and her sincere feedback on finishing touches, perhaps it would be still sitting on my laptop).

And today, I am getting to swim better and better. I know when you read about One Light going places, you were very happy. When you learnt about how it inspired hundreds of students in an underprivileged school to take action against drug abuse and teen pregnancy via film making, it made you even happier.

Now, you will be proud to know that I paid it forward past week by taking your message of "Story telling via Films" to many other Sikh Youth.

It took the vision of yet another Kaur (Mirin Aunty of Kaur Foundation, Washington D.C.) this time, who invited me to lead a workshop on Filmmaking to inspire other young people. (This is when I was looking for a film school to learn more myself).

I had the choice between learning or teaching and inspiring. I decided I could do both.

I got the privilege to lead a week-long workshop on documentary film making with the youth attendees of iLead Retreat held in the Charlestown, West Virginia, area.

Not many 14-year-olds get to do that. I had learnt a lot of what to and not to do with One Light and shared that with the participants. We discussed about importance of Films and Media for Sikhs, starting platforms such as the prestigious Spinning Wheel Film Festivals in Toronto, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., etc., and the Sikhnet Youth Film Festival on the internet, different kinds of films, nuts and bolts of making a documentary in a "Do=Learn" environment where we jointly produced a trailer of my next film, Roots and Wings.

You will be glad to know that with two other workshops going on at the same time (Art and Journalism, both extremely insightful), most kids wanted to participate in Film-making.

Throughout the workshop, the youth participated in various activities such as recording, narrating, being the subjects, behind the scenes performances, etc. They and their parents were extremely happy to see the trailer which we had ready for the closing day.

Everybody is waiting in anticipation of the completion. The best part is that they all went home inspired to make their own films.

Hopefully, at least one of them will carry the torch forward and the Sikh film industry will see the fruit of the seeds planted by the visionary Kaurs.

" ‘Coz, we have got stories to tell!"


P.S.: The only complication is that I came back with 22 hours of stories in raw footage that I must do something meaningful with, yet another time.


July 3, 2008

Conversation about this article

1: Manjyot Kaur (New York City, U.S.A.), July 04, 2008, 11:11 AM.

At last month's Washington D.C. Spinning Wheel Film Festival, I had the pleasure of meeting Angad Singh and his Mom, as well as the honor of being interviewed for his upcoming film, Roots and Wings. The questions he asked me showed immense insight and thoughtfulness and it was truly amazing to see the maturity and grace with which he conducts himself. I think it is very safe to say that we can look forward to many phenomenal achievements from this extraordinary young man!

2: Farhat (Mississauga), July 05, 2008, 10:52 AM.

Angad, we are all really proud of you. You have done a great job in putting together the documentary. It is good to finally know who the motivator was behind this effort and I am sure everyone will be grateful to her for giving you the inspiration. Sometime in the future, I am also expecting a tribute from you to one other Kaur who has made you what you are and who calls herself "The Singhni" ... your mom! Keep up the good work and we are looking forward to your next film.

3: Moninder Kaur (Dunwoody, U.S.A.), September 15, 2008, 3:26 PM.

Good job, by the blessings of Waheguru, and keep it up, stay humble and give all the deserved respect to your mother. Love, Moninder Aunty.

4: Iqbal Singh ( Paris, France), November 21, 2008, 8:19 AM.

I'm glad that you are now entering the film industry. I hope you will become the best of filmmakers.

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