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Desi filmmakers explore the aftershocks of 9/11

June 2006
Desi filmmakers explore the aftershocks of 9/11

As the fifth anniversary of 9/11 approaches, filmmakers, novelists and others have begun to examine, with greater confidence and creative freedom, the continuing reverberations of that unforgettable day. In a major film like United 93, both facts and imagination have been used to recreate the experiences of passengers on that doomed flight. Other films, including those by South Asian Americans, dwell on the aftereffects rather than the actual events of 9/11. Fear, ignorance and prejudice are recurring motifs. But so are kindness and heroism in some cases. Tanuj Chopra's Punching at the Sun deals with a troubled teenager and his family living in Queens, New York, in the aftermath of 9/11. Already this year, it has been screened at the Sundance, Asian American, and Tribeca Film Festivals. Another movie, American Made, shown widely on PBS last month, focuses on a Sikh family's difficulties during a trip to the Grand Canyon. When their car breaks down on a desolate stretch of the highway, and passers-by fail to offer help, they are forced to confront painful questions about their place in American society. Written and directed by Sharat Raju, the film features Kal Penn, Sakina Jaffrey and Bernard White. "Through the Singh family, stranded in the desert," the producers note, "Raju explores the conflict between faith, freedom, assimilation and modernization – themes that immigrants continue to struggle with when recreating family in a new world." Raju is now working on a documentary titled Divided We Fall: Americans in the Aftermath. In The Gold Bracelet, another independent film, 9/11 interrupts a Sikh family's wedding festivities, permanently altering their lives in this country. Kavi Raz plays the lead role and he also produced, wrote and directed it. His movie, too, has been screened at a handful of film festivals. And in The War Within, starring Ayad Akhtar and Nandana Sen, when a Pakistani student is falsely accused of terrorism, the consequences are disastrous.

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