Day one began with a red carpet reception followed by a silent auction displaying numerous art and poetry books created by award winning members of the Sikh community. As the expected 400 guests piled into the main theatre hall, a musical performance was already under way by Ranjit Singh. From the Bhai Mardana Institute of Music, he wowed the audience by playing various instruments, displaying his musical acumen in full effect. Opening remarks followed by Bob Bassett, Dean of Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts. Bassett welcomed the fest to the university for a fourth straight year and reaffirmed the goal of the event, “to celebrate the diversity and values of the Sikh community and religion and to help people understand what is often an invisible and misunderstood ethnic group.”
Nitasha Kaur Sawhney, a well-known fixture within the South Asian community, delivered the keynote address. An attorney by day, Sawhney was the Festival Chair for the very first Sikh Film Festival in Southern California.
Musical performances by talented Sikh artists were peppered in throughout the first day of the festival. Harjinder Singh, a popular singer and guitarist from Chicago, kicked off the mini musical concert with a solo performance, infusing sounds from Reggae, Soul, and Jazz. The biggest cheer of the night came when Gurpreet Sarin took the stage to perform a cover of Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World.” Sarin, best known for making the Top 40 on Season 12 of American Idol, blessed the audience with a cool, raspy rendition of the popular jazz hit. Also present at the event were artists from the U.K., Amrit and Rabindra. The twins have been regulars to the annual festival.
Day one culminated with a series of award winning short films written, directed, and produced by students of Chapman University under the tutelage of Festival Director Michael Singh. The films outlined various social causes impacting the Sikh community as well as the origins of the subset within the United States. Films shown on the inaugural day included Onkar, We’re Not Strangers, The Lions of London, and Proud Mothers. The latter was the sole comedy submission for the day that satirized the pride and often over exaggerated manner in which mothers talk about their children.
Other notable films shown throughout the weekend were The Killing by Sati Kaur and Empty Inside by KickDrugs Inc. The festival was sponsored by a handful of organizations including Fairmont Private Schools, Ziba Beauty, and Macland Invesments.