This fall marks the 6th annual SikhNet Youth Online Film Festival which started in 2006 with a simple goal to engage the Sikh Youth to get creative with communicating through media. By giving the Sikh youth a "stage" and some prizes as encouragement, we have seen so many personal and creative stories. If we want to educate our own community and the world about what Sikhi is about, then we have to have the skills, tools and actually do it. No one is going to do it for us.
I also feel that too often Sikhi is related in such dry way with no "soul" or spirituality in how it is communicated that doesn’t connect with the new younger generation of Sikhs. As if it (being a Sikh) was just something that we do "because"…or something that you practiced because your parents told you to, without it having much meaning to you. Often times with no personal relationship in expressing this….it is harder to relate to. I always encourage the youth who submit videos to SikhNet to come up with a video showing unique and creative stories that share a personal experience. This helps the viewer relate to it in a real way and not come across as preachy or hollow.
Technology has made it easier than ever to use this media. Everyone has cell phones that record video…even HD quality video! Most youth have computers and are pretty comfortable with technology. It’s just a matter of applying their creativity and doing something unique with their time. Sit on the couch and watch TV? Or get a bunch of friends together and make a cool video that will be both fun and interested to many people. I have seen so many more Sikhs make videos in recent years. If you watch videos on YouTube or are on Facebook you have no doubt seen loads of videos by Sikhs. It’s pretty common to see Sikh rap music videos, comedy
A few weeks ago was the submission deadline for the 2011 SikhNet Film Festival, and after getting all the videos, we started our work with processing them and getting ready to post online. Some years we get 20+ video submissions and sometimes 50+ so it really just depends. It’s always great to see repeat film makers who have started with their first video and then over the next years create more videos. You can always see the quality improvement for the ones that stick with it, each with their own unique style.
This past Friday we had the task to watch all the video submissions and decide who the prize winners would be. Overall we feel that all the participants are "winners" just by taking the time to make a video and do something creative, however we like to recognize some of the videos that might stand out from the rest. Plus…it motivates people to know that they can win some prize money.
It is no easy task choosing top three for each category (junior, intermediate, and senior). The 4 of us at SikhNet (Espanola) went over to Guruka Singh’s house and had a SikhNet Film Festival movie marathon all day. We started off with the video submissions by the juniors 11-17 years old and went upwards.
Judging videos is very subjective, so opinions can vary widely from person to person. In the past we had a whole ranking system that we had many different judges fill out to rank each movie, but in the end it didn’t seem to work very well. So for the past years we have done a bit of a hybrid of the two. We watch the videos and rank them on a sheet according to the creativity, message, technical aspects and overall impact. Then at the end of watching the videos for each youth group we compare our rankings to see if there is a common theme for our top picks. We do the marathon viewing together so that the videos are fresh in our minds and we can better compare to the other videos that we just watched.
If we find that all of us ranked certain videos similarly then it’s great. But often times (particularly for second and third place) we have to spend time to debate with each other and talk about why we each felt one video was better than the other. We always have some pretty heated and passionate "debates" as we argue why we think one video is better than the other. It’s no easy task since there are so many aspects to consider, and the videos can often be so different in nature and culture. For example, videos typically from youth in India are often VERY different than videos made by youth elsewhere in the world.
In any case, we do our best to be fair in ranking the winners and share tips and advice with the Film makers so they can improve. So are you ready to start watching some videos from this years SikhNet Youth Online Film Festival?? There are quite a few videos that you can watch so I thought I would share some of the videos that I enjoyed with a bit of commentary…..
"(Ex) Changed" by 17 Year old Angad Singh (Roswell, Georgia, USA)
Angad Singh is one of the younger talented Sikh youth who started his first film for the 2007 SikhNet Film festival when he was 13 years old. He won 1st place in the junior category for the video titled "One Light". This was a project for him to educate his neighbors about himself as a Sikh and to learn about them as well.
Then in 2008 (age 15) he came out again with yet another winning video "Roots and Wings" which poses the question about whether one has to cut off their roots in order to spread their wings and soar high.
This year (now at 17 years old) he submitted his third film (Ex) Changed about him as a Sikh-American teenager sharing the message of friendship and building bridges to an international level. He and his American classmates host 32 French teens for two weeks as part of an exchange program. They get to know French lifestyle and culture on an individual level, breaking the common stereotypes that they had of the French, while showing their guests the true face of America. While exploring two other connections Angad has to France, and building his third one, he realizes something that devastates him.
You can watch his latest video below which was one of my favorites for the junior group…
"Wake Walk Win" by 17 Year old twins Harnek Singh and Rasna Kaur (Troy, Michigan, USA)
This is their second year submitting to the SikhNet Film Festival. In 2010 they won 1st place in the junior division for their film "iz yu ignant bout Sikhi?". This short film is a visually creative and simple message based on Gurbani to first "wake up"…"start walking"…and then "win". I loved the creative idea they used for this and how they artistically conveyed this in video.
There are more videos in the Junior division that are also great, however these two were my top picks from this year. You can watch more of the videos in the Junior Category here.