Sikh International Film Festival 2023: A journey into heritage and diversity  

SIFF organizers with team American Sikh – Vishvajit Singh, Director Ryan Westra, and Vikas Khanna pose for a photo Dec. 16, 2023, at the festival held in the Rubin Museum auditorium. PHOTOS: Jay Mandal on assignment, courtesy SIFF

In the bustling heart of the city that never sleeps, the Sikh International Film Festival 2023 told the tale of Sikh heritage and cultural diversity at the prestigious Rubin Museum’s auditorium December 16. ( This year’s festival took the audience on a  journey through impactful stories, with standout films.

Among such films was:

“Baywatana: Without a Country’, directed by high school students from Boston”, explored the plight of Sikhs and Hindus in Taliban-era Afghanistan.

Q & A session with Team Baywatana at the Dec. 16, 2023, Sikh International Film Festival at Rubin Museum. PHOTO: Jay Mandal, courtesy SIFF

“American Sikh”, a true story of Indian American Sikh who was trying to assimilate with the Americans. The Oscar qualified animated short film is a story of American Sikh Hero Vishvajit Singh and Produced by Guneet Monga Kapoor – Oscar-winning producer (The Elephant Whisperers) and Michelin-starred chef-filmmaker Vikas Khanna and directed and illustrated by American Sikh Hero Vishavjit Singh and Ryan Westra.

“One of the highlights of screening ‘American Sikh’ at Sikh International Film Festival was engaging the little ones and the youth who could see themselves reflected in our film. Their dreams and hopes keep me inspired,” Khanna is quoted saying in the press release.

Col. Kamaljeet Singh Khalsi at Sikh Internation Film Fest in New York, December 16, 2023. Photo: Jay Mandal/On Assignment, courtesy SIFF

“Colonel Kalsi: Beyond the Call”,  another true story of a young Sikh, Kamal Kalsi, who fought to serve in the US Army with his turban and beard. The film explores themes of diversity, sacrifice, faith, identity and resilience.  

“Serving in the Army with my unique camo turban and beard was a profound experience of celebrating my Sikh identity while embodying the spirit of American patriotism…” Kalsi said.

The festival featured more than 10 films, covering a diverse range of topics from current affairs to historical perspectives.

Those who organized the festival expressed their satisfaction with the lineup and the audience response as evident in the packed auditorium.

Audience at the screening Dec. 16, 2023, at Rubin Museum. Photo: Jay Mandal/On Assignment, courtesy SIFF

The leaders included Teji Bindra (Founder and President of Sikh Art & Film Foundation), Mandeep Sobti (Senior VP and Chair of Finance), Dr Paul Johar (Chair SAFF – Film Festival), Harmeet Bharara ( Former Chair FF and Gala), Hansdip Bindra ( Head of PR and Marketing).

“Sikh Art & Film Foundation has been at the forefront in bringing better awareness of Sikhs through films and arts for the past 17 years. We are pleased with the fantastic movies showcased this year,” Bindra emphasized,

Johar added, “This year’s Sikh International Film Festival showcased a powerful lineup addressing contemporary Sikh Diaspora issues, delved into the challenges faced by the community.”

Amardeep Singh’s documentary, “Oneness in Diversity: Elixir of Guru Nanak and the Indic Saints,” intertwined memories of Saints and Sufi mystics, emphasizing the essential theme of oneness and diversity, the press release noted.

In effect, the festival not only celebrated Sikh culture but also provided a dynamic platform for filmmakers to showcase their artistry, organizers said.

Since 2004, the SIFF has become an annual feature.

As the curtains closed on this year’s festival, the organizers expressed gratitude to viewers for their unwavering support, marking a significant chapter in the festival’s journey.

“The success of SIFF 2023 promises an even brighter future, continuing to celebrate Sikh heritage and diversity through the captivating lens of cinema,” the organization said



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