SAFF 2023 :: Saturday Matinee :: Creative Sikhs/Live Performance
Creative Sikhs/Live Performance – Theater 1Saturday, November 18, 20231:00 PM – 3:00 PM
Creative Sikhs/Live Performance – Theater 1
Saturday, November 18, 2023
1:00 PM – 3:00 PM
The “Creative Sikhs” session shines a light on the incredible artistic talents within the Sikh community, beyond traditional careers. Filmmakers like Gurdeep Dhaliwal, Hansjeet Duggal, Julia Elizabeth Evans, Molly Karna, Amandeep Kaur, Jaspreet Kaur, Only Kewal, Salman Alam Khan, Aneesha Madhok, Navalpreet Rangi, Anmol Sandhu, Amolak Singh, Davinder Singh, Ravi Guru Singh, Vishavjit Singh and Ryan Westra will share their filmmaking experiences in dynamic panel discussions. Several writers including Jashanpreet Kaur Gill, Harjus Singh, Sandip K. Sodhi and Mariella Spagnolo will discuss creativity in their respective careers.
At 2:30PM, Davinder Singh and Only Kewal will give a live performance of the original play Ithihaas Gwaah Hai (in Punjabi) This session will be led by moderator Indy Saini.
Theater 1 starts at 1:00 PM for the Creative Sikhs and Live Performance session featuring the artists listed below:
The theater is located at:
The Frida Theater
305 E 4th St #100
Santa Ana, CA 92701
Phone: (714) 285-9422
The content, selections, and schedule subject to change without notice.
Gurdeep Singh Dhaliwal discovered his passion for writing early on, starting a little magazine in his village of Sukhpura Maur that collected writings by local schoolchildren. Although he began studying engineering, he soon ditched this path to pursue English literature and creative writing in London. During his student years, Dhaliwal frequently visited art galleries and museums across Europe, immersing himself in the arts. After finishing his studies, unlike many of his Punjabi peers, he returned to Punjab to tell the stories of his generation’s aspirations.
Although trained in the written word, Dhaliwal chose the camera as his primary tool to convey visual stories of alienated college-going youth. Capturing their musical tastes, fashion styles, and postered walls full of boredom, his work explores the minutiae of youth culture. Always drawn to the human element, Dhaliwal’s image-making centralizes the human face, even when capturing empty spaces through evocative objects like clothes, sheets, and wires.
From an early calling to give voice to children’s writings to his photographic chronicling of Punjabi youth, Gurdeep Singh Dhaliwal’s work remains committed to illuminating the lives and longings of the human spirit. His own diverse artistic journey informs his singular perspectives on both Indian and European culture. Dhaliwal continues using his lens to unveil the poetry in the everyday.
Hansjeet Duggal is an award-winning editor and immersive media trailblazer based in Hollywood. His VR animated short Freiheit was selected by the prestigious Annecy Animation Festival in France. Recently, Duggal was chosen for the American Cinema Editors Diversity Program, connecting him with Oscar-winning mentors.
Duggal has edited Jutti Kasoori which aired on PBS, and The Cheez That Binds. He produced the Sardar Harbail Singh documentary, and directed Shades of Indigo, also for PBS. Most recently, he directed The 51 Percent and Sacred Threads of Lima.
As editor of impactful films, Duggal lends his creative talents to tell compelling stories. He also teaches young creators in the Sikhlens Digital Voices program, empowering the next generation. With his unique skills in animation, VR/AR and editing, Duggal drives innovation in Sikh storytelling.
Molly Karna is an Indian-American writer and director based in Los Angeles. She recently completed her MFA thesis film Truckstop, a hybrid fiction-nonfiction short about a young Punjabi immigrant. While at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, Karna produced multiple award-winning shorts including Big and Small and Demi, for which she earned a Lambda LGBTQ Scholarship.
Prior to her USC studies, Karna gained experience in the Hindi film industry in Mumbai. In 2018, she directed the short film Arrangement, which premiered at the New York Indian Film Festival and won Best Debut Short Film at the Cincinnati Indian Film Festival. Karna also worked as a staff writer for the news-comedy show Samachari News and helped produce projects like Surina, Mel, and the Hindi film Chef.
Before embarking on her film career, Karna was a Fulbright Scholar researching gentrification and maternal health in Mumbai. She graduated from Columbia University with a Bachelors in Biomedical Engineering. With this diverse background spanning engineering, social issues, and comedy writing, Molly Karna is an exciting multi-hyphenate artist bringing a fresh lens to directing.
Amandeep “Aman” Kaur is a queer, Punjabi Sikh actress and filmmaker from Los Angeles, California. She co-founded Brown Girl Joy Productions in 2018 with her two older sisters in order to cultivate authentic Punjabi and Sikh stories. Although her acting journey began with absolutely no training due to being low income, she refined her craft watching films and practicing alone constantly. Through acting, Aman hopes to bring authentic South Asian representation to the big screen and inspire young brown girls like herself to pursue careers in the film industry. Her debut, Udhaare Supne, premiered at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, with her performance garnering praise. Her most recent film, Zindagi Dobara won the 2021 Tasveer Film Fund for Best LGBT Script and premiered at the 2022 Tasveer Film Festival. Her work has premiered at festivals like BAFTA qualifying Cambridge Film Festival, Outfest Fusion, Micheaux Film Festival, Chicago South Asian Film Festival, PrideFull, Out on Film: Atlanta’s LGBTQ+ Film Festival, and Kashish Mumbai International Film Festival. Aman recently completed her B.A in Asian American Studies and Gender Women Studies with a minor in Queer Studies.
Jaspreet Kaur is a queer, immigrant filmmaker from the San Fernando Valley with roots in Punjab, India. As an undocumented Sikh growing up in a post 9/11 America, she turned to storytelling as an avenue to access basic resources and change how we perceive “outsiders.” Jaspreet creates stories that normalize narratives of LGBTQ+, undocumented, and Sikh people as multidimensional characters who are flawed, quirky, and authentic. In 2018, she co-founded Brown Girl Joy Productions to create innovative and transformative media centering underserved communities. Jaspreet graduated from Harvard College as the only Sikh student in the class of 2021. In 2022, she was a mentee in the Made in Her Image x A24’s Beyond the Screen program sharpening her producer skillset, while also writing an original television pilot as an Artist Disruptors Fellow at the Center for Cultural Power. Most recently, she produced the short film, Zindagi Dobara, which won the Netflix x Tasveer Film Fund grant and premiered at the Tasveer Film Festival. Jaspreet is completing her MFA at the University of Southern California as a NBCUniversal Point Flagship Scholar and Paul and Daisy Soros Fellow.
Salman Alam Khan
Salman Alam Khan is a Sikhlens scholar and freelance Pakistani photographer and filmmaker. A media studies graduate from the University of Punjab, his work has been featured nationally and in global projects with TED and PBS.
Driven to capture cultural and human-interest narratives, Khan’s past Sikhlens films include Going Home, Knitted Beliefs and Allegory-A Tapestry of Guru Nanak’s Travels. This year, he premieres Breaking Barriers: The Manka Dhingra Story, Connecting The Dots, and Resilience of Faith.
Currently attending the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles, Khan continues honing his craftsmanship. His keen eye and passion for sharing impactful stories has led to enlightening films about the Sikh experience spanning Pakistan and the diaspora.
Nardeep is an acclaimed writer, director and actor based in Philadelphia by way of Switzerland. His work often spotlights underrepresented communities through compelling socially-conscious narratives and absurdist comedy.
As an actor, Nardeep has appeared in numerous TV shows including Jane the Virgin, SWAT, Why Women Kill, and as recurring voices on Disney’s Mira, Royal Detective. He is the winner of the 2021 ATT Untold Stories Program, 2021 Fall Screencraft Film Fund, and Silver Award winner in Drama at the 2021 PAGE Screenwriting Awards. Land of Gold marks his debut as a feature writer/director/actor.
When not on set, you’re likely to find Nardeep on a mountain hike or indulging in street food – two of his passions. He’s an award-winning creative who splits his time between thought-provoking social impact projects and offbeat humorous work.
Jashanpreet Kaur Gill
Jashanpreet Kaur Gill (Rose Gill) is a storyteller and filmmaker with a passion for compelling narratives. She has formal training in filmmaking, scriptwriting, cinematography, and editing from the prestigious New York Film Academy in Los Angeles.
As an alumnus of this Hollywood film school surrounded by Universal Studios and Warner Brothers, Jashanpreet has created several award-winning short films over the past three years. She directed veteran Punjabi actor Nirmal Rishi in the impactful short film “Nazi Naa Aawe” and tackled political participation in “Fark Painda Hai.” Her experimental films “Time’s Up” and “White Right” have won acclaim, along with the music video “Vas.” Jashanpreet has also collaborated internationally on shorts like “Those Few Stole Heartbeats” and “The Wound The Light.”
Most recently, she worked as Associate Director on the National Award-winning investigative drama “Brig. Pritam Singh, The Savior.” Four of her films have received “Memorable Mention” at the Student World Impact Festival. Despite accomplishments in her bureaucratic career, Jashanpreet feels incomplete, still searching for Rumi’s promised “Field” beyond right and wrong where her best friend “Shams” awaits.
Maria Patel is an accomplished storyteller and researcher with over 15 years of experience spanning documentary filmmaking, commercial writing, and ethnographic studies. Her work has been recognized globally, including winning the Cannes Film Festival Award in the Human Rights category for her impactful storytelling in The Losing Side.
Maria has collaborated with diverse creative professionals across mediums on projects ranging from visual narratives to written research reports for development organizations. She contributes extensively to factual storytelling through film, text, and photography. Her experience covers research, strategy, writing, and directing documentary and commercial content.
As a social change advocate, Maria is driven by curiosity to uncover untold narratives and new perspectives. Her research-based approach centers on listening to marginalized voices and communities. Maria’s focus on gender, religious minorities, digital governance, and ethnographies has informed discourse on equal citizenship, democratic culture, and pluralism in Pakistan.
Specializing as a director and actor, Anmol Sandhu crafts stories that highlight contrasting characters who reveal their intricate desires and flaws in relation to one another. Through themes of tradition, family dynamics, and the first-generation experience, he explores sides of life not often portrayed in conventional films. His characters and their interactions unveil nuanced perspectives.
Anmol’s current project, “Bollywood Goes Hollywood,” combines elements of the quintessential Bollywood musical rom-com with Hollywood storytelling. This concept was motivated by his intent to create a love letter to the Bollywood films he was immersed in during childhood. Having witnessed the cultural impact on his family and community, Anmol felt compelled to share this influence with wider audiences, exposing South Asian styles of storytelling.
As an actor himself, Anmol is devoted to authentic portrayals that connect with viewers. His directorial vision is driven by a passion to bring unheard narratives to the screen. Whether drawing on his own upbringing or imagining characters unlike himself, Anmol Sandhu strives to craft stories that enlighten perspectives and expand representation in cinema.
Amolak Singh is an accomplished young filmmaker based in Delhi and Mumbai, India. With extensive experience crafting acclaimed films, documentaries, and commercials for major Indian studios, he has firmly established himself as a talented storyteller.
Amolak possesses a unique ability to transform simple concepts into compelling narratives that resonate universally. His films delve into complex character arcs and socially relevant themes, demonstrating a deep appreciation for the full spectrum of human emotion and experience.
Regardless of genre or format, Amolak’s work reveals his profound insight into the human condition and his passion for exploring life’s complexities through the power of visual storytelling. After years honing his craft with major productions, he has emerged as a fresh voice ready to captivate global audiences.
Davinder Singh is an acclaimed Indo-Canadian director, actor, and producer known for impactful projects like Waleed, What’s Your Identity, and Beneath the Makeup. Waleed earned honors as the 3rd Best North Indian Film. Singh’s recent productions include Apna Farz, Basera, Patka Box, Bold Helmets, and Benaqab Chehre on Chaupal TV. With several compelling films in the pipeline for 2024, Singh continues to garner attention for his directorial skills.
Harjus Singh Sethi is a director/screenwriter who explored his Sikh heritage in his poignant Chapman MFA thesis film, All Quiet on the Homefront. Starring Waris Ahluwalia, it tells the true story of Bhagat Singh Thind and has screened at Oscar-qualifying festivals including LA Shorts.
Born in Cincinnati and raised in Ohio, Harjus’ films focus on identity and power dynamics. He continues writing and directing projects that deliver impactful narratives. Harjus currently has a feature script in the final round of Sundance Labs. He has industry experience at companies like EuropaCorp and CBS, demonstrating his dedication to the craft.
Kunwar Raj Singh and Subeg Singh Bhogal
Kunwar Raj Singh and Subeg Singh Bhogal both hail from Jalandhar, Punjab. The filmmaking partners each began their careers directing award-winning short films during their college years. Their early accoladed works earned them honors including Dada Saheb Phalke awards and recognition at the Bangalore International Film Festival. This launched what would become a fruitful creative partnership between the two.
After college, Kunwar and Subeg gained valuable experience assisting on major Hindi and Punjabi films like Baadshaho, Soorma, Romeo Akbar Walter, Attack and Vadda Kalakaar. Their joint directorial efforts continued through forming their own production company, Filmy Boys. Under this banner, they have directed around 26 music videos, 4 commercials, and a long short film.
With a proven track record of successful short filmmaking and a diverse array of projects under their belt, Kunwar Raj Singh and Subeg Singh Bhogal are now preparing to make their debut web series later this year. Their journey shows a commitment to nurturing their craft from an early age and steadily building their portfolio. Guided by a shared creative vision, the Filmy Boys continue to hone their distinctive cinematic voice.
Vishavjit Singh is a NYC-based storyteller, TEDx speaker, illustrator, and performance artist renowned for his caricatures on Sikhtoons.com. A producer of the new animated short American Sikh, Singh wields his art to dispel prejudice in the post-9/11 era.
For years, he has toured as ‘Captain America Singh’ – turban intact – using humor to spur dialogues on identity, bias, and positive change. His keynotes at organizations like Google, NASA, and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus tackle difficult topics with disarming wit.
Singh is the subject of acclaimed documentaries including Drawn Together and Red White & Beard. His message of unity through narrative has been featured by NPR, BBC, The Atlantic, The Guardian, and The New York Times. From schools to boardrooms, Singh harnesses the power of illustration and story to replace anxiety with understanding. His work proves art can illuminate our shared humanity.
Ravi Guru Singh
Ravi Guru Singh is an attorney and multi-disciplinary artist born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. The short film he wrote, produced, co-directed and acted in, “The Invite”, premiered at the first-ever South Asian House hosted by South by Southwest in 2023 and is on tour at festivals around the world. This summer he was covered by Elle Magazine, Vogue and the Business of Fashion for addressing biases in fashion and generative AI at the first-ever AI Fashion Week in New York. He debuted as a lead actor in the full-length film “Terrible Children” which premiered on the festival circuit last year. His legal writings were published in the New York Law Journal and law360 in 2022. He created and sold the first Bollywood digital fashion collection, which was featured by the Times of India and the Hindu. He was previously an associate at Cleary Gottlieb Steen and Hamilton and also served as a New York City Urban Fellow in the Administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He graduated from Northwestern Pritzker School of Law and Vanderbilt University on full scholarships. He was also a cast member of Netflix’s Indian Matchmaking, which he wrote about for the Huffington Post.
Mariella Spagnolo is a New Jersey based Actor and now, an Award-Winning Screenwriter. As a child, she enjoyed writing short comedy skits with her fraternal twin sister. She began performing in the school plays and talent shows and continued her love for acting in college. She is first generation Italian-American and very proud of her Calabrese heritage. She worked in the corporate and nonprofit sector.
Returning to the film industry after a long hiatus has been a worthwhile journey thus far. She has been cast in lead and supporting roles in various short and feature films, portraying an array of character types from dramatic to comedic. Mariella has lived in Latin American and speaks a few languages. She is Founder of the annual fundraising gala for a deaf-blind school in Buenos Aires, Argentina and has raised over $4M in charitable revenue for nonprofit organizations. She holds an MBA and Post MBA degree and continues to educate herself and acquire new skills. Mariella is also a College Professor and a Consultant. In her spare time, she enjoys creative writing, studying languages, cooking, playing golf, dancing Bhangra, and making wine with her father. Mariella has written five unproduced screenplays since 2022, all with Panjabi and Sikh context.
Sandip Sodhi is a Canadian, British born, Sikh woman with immigrant parents from Punjab, India. She was raised in Vancouver and completed her B.A. and B.Ed from the University of British Columbia. She is a children’s book author and an elementary school teacher in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada. Sodhi has been teaching children ages 5-13 for over 29 years. She has worked as a classroom teacher for grades 4-7 and is currently her school’s Teacher-Librarian.
Sodhi is passionate about cultural representation and diversity in children’s literature. She believes children need to see themselves reflected in books to help them connect with the characters. As a child of the 1970s in East Vancouver, Sodhi did not have this experience herself. So, she consciously writes inclusive, diverse books. Sodhi has written three picture books so far, with more on the way. Her books promote messages of unity, diversity, and positivity. She was recognized with two awards for her writing.
Navalpreet Rangi is a filmmaker and art photographer originally from the small village of Chommo in Punjab, India. His artistic journey began early, with a debut poetry book published at 16 and his first play staged with the Indian People’s Theatre Association while still in high school. Rangi developed his photography skills under artist Tejinder in Punjab before pursuing theater and creative arts during his college years at DAV College Chandigarh.
After graduation, Rangi moved to Mumbai where he continued honing his craft in theater alongside Punjabi artists and through art photography with Prithvi Theatre. This diverse experience laid the foundation for his filmmaking pursuits. In 2016, Rangi established Studio 7 Production, with photography studios based in Brampton and Surrey.
With artistic roots in poetry, theater, and visual arts, Navalpreet Rangi brings a multidisciplinary perspective to his filmmaking. His journey has taken him from writing books in his Punjabi village to staging plays in Mumbai and building a photography studio in Canada. This unique background informs Rangi’s passion for storytelling through imagery.
Director Ryan Westra has been fortunate to capture many powerful and important stories. He’s traveled rural Punjab capturing undocumented stories of a Sikh genocide, documented the struggle of indigenous peoples against oil companies in Montana, followed the HIV/AIDS outreach work of an NGO in Mozambique, edited an HBO feature documentary on reproductive rights, filmed the intensity of para-athletes pushing their limits, shot content for Headspace around a monastery in the Himalayas about mindfulness, shot a documentary about re-housing the most at-risk homeless in Los Angeles, and has had minor roles on Netflix and HBO series that deal with wrongful conviction and bringing cult leaders to justice.
Live Performance: Ithihaas Gwaah Hai (in Punjabi) at 2:30 PM
Ithihaas Gwaah Hai is a thought-provoking play written by Rishi Puri and poetically enhanced by Mankhan Brar. It stages a dialogue between the statue of a freedom fighter who sacrificed for society, and a common man fighting for daily survival. Portrayed by actors Only Kewal and Davinder Singh, the two characters hold differing outlooks shaped by their distinct stations in life. As their perspectives collide, viewers are left to grapple with pivotal questions. Which viewpoint do we align with? What sacrifices are justified for the greater good?
Davinder Singh is an acclaimed Indo-Canadian director, actor, and producer known for impactful projects like Waleed, What’s Your Identity, and Beneath the Makeup. Waleed earned honors as the 3rd Best North Indian Film. Singh’s recent productions include Apna Farz, Basera, Patka Box, Bold Helmets, and Benaqab Chehre on Chaupal TV. With several compelling films in the pipeline for 2024, Singh continues to garner attention for his acting, writing, and directorial skills.
Over the past decade, Only Kewal has honed his acting craft across a range of theatrical productions. He finds joy in both comedic and socially conscious roles, appreciating the chance to explore varied emotions and insights into society. Since 2013, Kewal has performed with multiple theatre groups, most recently acting in three Punjabi stage plays in 2023. His repertoire also includes a supporting role in the short film Identity.
This session is free!
Come in and enjoy hours of free entertainment.