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WSU to show film on post-9/11 hate crimes on Jan. 24; Honors student coordinates film screening and filmmaker Q&A

January 16, 2008

Wayne State University’s Sikh Student Organization, Muslim Student Organization and Student have teamed up to show Divided We Fall: Americans in the Aftermath, the first feature-length documentary film to analyze the aftermath of 9/11 on South Asian and Arab Americans. The screening will be held Thursday, Jan. 24 at 6:00 p.m. in Bernath Auditorium, located first floor of the Undergraduate Library.

The WSU presentation of Divided We Fall is coordinated by Amarinder Singh, an Honors senior majoring in journalism who is a member of Honors’ MedStart program.

“I watched the film in Ann Arbor last year and immediately recognized the importance of showing the film on WSU’s diverse campus.” said WSU Honors student Amarinder Singh, who coordinated the screening at Wayne State University with Divided We Fall. “I know students will appreciate and be inspired by this film just as I was because of our diverse student population.”

The film, directed by Sharat Raju, documents hate crimes against Sikhs, Muslims and others after 9/11. Filmmaker Valarie Kaur, who drove across America interviewing victims of hate violence in the days and months after the 2001 terrorist attacks,  will be available for questions from audience members and the press.
 
"Five years in the making, Divided We Fall invites audiences to experience the untold stories of 9/11," said Kaur. "The journey spirals into the larger question of who counts as 'one of us' in a world divided into 'us' and ‘them.’”
 
Sikhs who wore turbans were immediately targeted in the backlash. Half a million Americans and 23 million people worldwide belong to the Sikh religion, which originated in India in the 15th century and requires the turban as an article of faith.

The film features the story of Balbir Singh Sodhi, a turbaned Sikh man who was shot and killed in Mesa, Ariz., on Sept. 15, 2001, by a man who called himself a "patriot." The killing was the first of an estimated 19 "retribution" murders in the year after the Sept. 11 attacks. His murder inspired Kaur, a third-generation Sikh American who was then a junior at Stanford University, to take action.
 
Kaur, who has a master’s in theological studies form Harvard Divinity School, drove through 14 American cities capturing both stories of fear and unspeakable loss and also of resilience and hope. Her journey ended in Punjab, India, where she interviewed Sodhi's widow, Herjinder Kaur. Kaur is also the founding director of the Discrimination and National Security Initiative.
 
 "Terrorism and critical moments in the war on terror trigger hate violence at home," Kaur said. "If we can recognize Sikh and Muslim faces as 'American,' we can respond to the fear that divides our nation in times of crises and come one step closer to a more perfect union."

Raju, an award-winning filmmaker and recent graduate of the American Film Institute Conservatory, teamed up with Kaur to present the first full-length documentary addressing hate crimes in the aftermath of Sept. 11.

"In the months after Sept. 11, the phrase 'United We Stand' was on bumper stickers and signs all across the country," Raju said. "But the phrase has a second part -- 'Divided We Fall.' There's a bigger picture, and we must strive to bridge the divisions between us in order for those words to be more than just a slogan. We hope our film is one more step in that direction."

Divided We Fall made its world premiere in Phoenix in September 2006 and is currently on a tour of universities and film festivals across the U.S. The film has also screened in the U.K. and India. Valarie Kaur has been interviewed by numerous media outlets, including NPR and the BBC, and her story was featured in a book by Frances Moore Lappe, You Have the Power: Choosing Courage in a Culture of Fear (2004).

For more information on the WSU screening, contact Amarinder Singh, amarinders@wayne.edu.

For more information on the film, visit www.dwf-film.com (external link, not WSU content).