By GREG HEFFERNAN November 23, 2009 02:49:00 PM  

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Chapman University president James Doti and Bob Bassett, dean of the Dodge College of Film and Media Arts, received the Partners in Progress award during the recent Sikh Art and Film Festival held Nov. 13-15 at the Egyptian theater here.

In accepting the award for the university’s support and commitment to the festival, Bassett said that while Chapman has opened satellite campuses in Singapore and other parts of the world, “India is certainly a place we would love to open a university.” 

Festival co-chair (along with Tina Kaur Anand) Ravin Kaur Kohli, who grew up in California, explained to the opening night audience Nov. 13 that the purpose of the “Inaugural Celebration of Sikh Art, Books & Films” festival, presented by sikhlens, was to inspire youth with the legacy of Sikh culture. 

The opening evening’s highlights included “Nineteen Eighty-Four and the Via Dolorosa Project,” a semi-autobiographical documentary film by the Singh Twins that seeks to parallel the atrocities of 1984 with the Christian tradition of the Via Dolorosa, or “path of pain," during Jesus’ walk to crucifixion. 

In a filmed interview, Sikh literary scholar Patwant Singh noted that the tragedy of 1984 “affects every community in India,” where communal violence claims more victims, such as in Gujarat, for example.

Another film, “Location/Situatedness through Memory,” focused on the Sikh encounter with colonial power. 

The event combined over 20 musical, shorts and feature films to showcase filmmakers ranging from the professional to the amateur and hailing from four different continents who presented topics ranging from history to hope. Catering was provided by Manohar’s Delhi Palace of La Puente.

The festival’s awards ceremony honored filmmakers and authors as well as heritage and creative media partners, among them veteran Bollywood producer Puneet Sira and Gurmustak Singh Khalsa, one of the visionaries behind the Sikhnet Online Youth Film Festival. The opening night gala included a Bhangra performance by the award-winning National Bhangra Association team followed by an upbeat musical performance by Meetu Chilana, presented by Rukus Avenue and the winner of AVS's Voice of Choice Award 2009. 

A creative panel discussion showcasing Sikhs in the visual, audio, fashion and entertainment industries included Navjot Kaur, Gurmustak Singh Khalsa, Harvin Sethi, Jagmeet Singh, Shamsher Singh, Tanmit Singh, and Puneet Sira. 

The program, with actor/comedian Harvin Sethi as co-emcee, also focused on partnerships with Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts as well as such non-profits as Sikhpoint, ASHT, the Kaur Foundation and Jakara.

As part of its on-going partnership with Sikhpoint, the festival hosted the unveiling of the 2010 Sikhpoint Calendar, “Conserving Sikh Heritage,” by Gurmeet Rai.