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Sikh News A Warrior's Religion

Discussion in 'Breaking News' started by Aman Singh, May 25, 2009.

  1. Aman Singh

    Aman Singh
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    Jun 1, 2004
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    A local filmmaker is hoping the security guards and insurance policy he's secured won't be needed at the Vancouver screening of his film.

    He's hoping Vancouver's Sikh community won't judge his documentary by its title alone.

    The film, A Warrior's Religion by Mani Amar, takes a hard look at gang activity among Metro Vancouver's Sikh youth. It includes interviews with former gangsters, drug runners, police and parents of murdered youth.

    It's screening May 28 and 29 at the Raja Cinema at 3215 Kingsway.

    Amar describes himself as born into the Sikh community but not a practicing Sikh. His film questions whether aspects of Sikh culture--with its emphasis on masculine bravado, honour and taking risks--predispose youth from that community to join gangs.

    The question has proved highly controversial. Before the film's Surrey premiere, Amar said, he received threatening phone calls in the middle of the night and hate mail. "People called to argue, telling me I'm a bad Sikh," he said. Some callers made death threats.

    During the first of four premiere screenings in March at the Bell Performing Arts Centre in Surrey, someone--believed to be a disgruntled audience member--damaged the theatre's sprinkler system. The result, said Amar, was $45,000 in damages.

    Amar was thankful he'd purchased an insurance policy. "It was the best $110 I've ever spent."

    After the screenings, however, people came up to shake his hand.

    "So many people came on board," Amar said. "People understood that I wasn't trying to bring down the [Sikh] community. I was trying to support it."

    Amar, 27, was compelled to make the film after his family moved from Port Alberni to Burnaby.

    "It was total culture shock every day," he said. "The kids I was hanging out with would be [saying], 'Hey, did you hear? My cousin was shot.'"

    Every few days, Amar would read newspaper accounts of yet another shooting. "Some kids [were] my age and even younger, shot and killed. I thought, I need to do something."

    By Amar's count, more than 100 youth from the Sikh community died in gang violence from 1990 to 2005, when he decided to make the film.

    "These [gangsters] aren't from poverty stricken homes, but from upper middle-class families," Amar said. "So we already have the money... why were we getting so readily involved in gang violence?"

    He decided to ask that question of someone who knew the answer first-hand: former gangster Bal Buttar. A 2001 shooting left Buttar blind and a quadriplegic, confined to a wheelchair.

    Amar's former fiancee, who worked in the health care field, helped him sneak into the care facility where Buttar lived. While she distracted a nurse, Amar slipped into Buttar's room. He told Buttar about the film he hoped to make. A deal was struck: Amar would help Buttar take notes for the book Buttar hoped to write.

    The resulting interview, said Amar, really grips youth. "They say, 'Oh. I don't want to wind up like that.'"

    The scene that packs the biggest emotional punch, however, is a graveside scene where Amar interviews Eileen Mohan, whose son was killed as an innocent bystander during a violent multiple gang murder in a Surrey apartment building. "It took me nearly two weeks to edit that," said Amar. "Every time I'd watch the hour-long interview, it would make me all emotional."

    Amar hopes his film will screen in schools. Secondary schools in Surrey and Richmond have expressed an interest, he said. More information on A Warrior's Religion can be found at www.warriorsreligion.com

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  3. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    Jun 17, 2004
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    All I can think to say is "Why?" But it is awesome that Amar ji has tackled this issue head on without mincing around. Truth is strong medicine.
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