What began as Kiran Kaur Ahluwalia’s eighth grade English project ended up as one of six films in the youth cluster of the 2012 Sikhlens film festival in Los Angeles.
The fifteen-year-old from Danville, California, said the motivation for her seven-minute film, ‘Power of Belief,’ was her strong beliefs in Sikhi. The original film that she created for her English project compared the theme of prejudice in the Jim Crow laws, the Indian Removal Act, the original immigration laws and social classes to the theme of determination in Sikh beliefs. After the school year ended, her father encouraged her to develop on the Sikh theme and submit a revised version to the Sikh Arts and Film Festival, last November. In the film, Kiran is painting a picture while talking about how her beliefs are constantly tested by “obstacles, barriers, and distractions” such as hate, discrimination and injustice. She uses current events, such as the shooting at the Oak Creak gurdwara, to explain her points. With a video camera perched on a tripod, focused over her shoulder, Kiran spent a total of three hours finishing her painting. She spent another three to four hours on the script, and edited the film in iMovie. Kiran’s love for painting comes from her paternal grandmother who is an artist, she said. She taught young Kiran to use oils, acrylics and watercolors. Acrylics are Kiran’s preferred medium, which she uses in her painting in the film. Kiran’s love for Sikhi started with her parents, she said. She did what many other Sikh kids do: learn Japji Sahib, do kirtan, attend Punjabi school. But the bigger turning point came a couple of years ago when she was at a camp held by the International Institute of Gurmat Studies, and began doing parkash there in the mornings. “I wanted to know about Sikhi,” she said, and not just do what was expected. The objective of her film is not to preach her beliefs about Sikhi but to help others “realize their own beliefs,” she said.