An interracial couple faces social tensions in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The film follows the perspective of Harpreet, a young Sikh-American man, as he cautiously navigates a sudden climate of fear and dangerous assumptions.
Produced by: Mimi Jeffries, Joseph Mazzella
Cast: Sathya Sridharan, Olivia Gilliatt, Moti Margolin, Andrew MacLarty
6 questions with Dastaar director, Javian Le at the half-way mark.
Saturday, February 18th, 2017
1Hi Javian! Thanks for being a part of our festival. First, what inspired you to make Dastaar? The idea for the film stems from conversations with my former roommate about his experiences dealing with post-9/11 racism as a Sikh American growing up in New Jersey. At the beginning of development my main focus was on the random acts of racially charged violence that affected the Sikh community after 9/11. However, as I continued to do more research and speak to different people I began to realize it is the everyday micro aggressions that leaves the most lasting impression; the cold stares, unspoken assumptions, and stereotypical portrayal in the media. The film eventually evolved into a piece that aims to evoke an emotional response through visual experimentation while leaving room for viewers to reflect on their own background and sensibility in relationship to the main character’s journey.
2I feel like this film should be shown in high schools across America, especially in today's political climate. What are your thoughts on the Trump victory and did you make this film in response to the growing xenophobia we've all been seeing over the last election? We actually started principal photography before Trump announced his candidacy, so that was very far from my mind. I never really thought of this as a political film. It was always meant to be a personal film loosely based on ambiguous, yet unsettling experiences that I could emotionally relate to in some way. I really hope that viewers from either side of the political spectrum can watch this film and see it as a shared human experience, not a political one.
3You do an incredible job of capturing how something as normal as going to a gas station can suddenly become scary. But I think it's great how you make this couple interracial because Emily (played by Olivia Gilliat) isn't picking up on the same things as Harpreet (played by Sathya Sridharan) which creates this slight tension between them. Can you explain a bit why you chose to make this couple interracial? Thanks! It was important for the couple to be interracial to draw attention to the mechanics of racism. Racism isn't just random acts of violence towards marginalized groups. It is an institution that relies on the passive complicity of all parties and is most effective when we don't see it or realize we are participating in it. Emily is very open-minded, but doesn't pick up on the microaggressions because it has never personally affected her. Harpreet is quick to see it because his appearance doesn't fit cultural norms and he is subtly reminded of this every day. I believe implicit bias is something that challenges everyone to a certain degree, because our capacity to empathize really is limited by the boundaries of our own perspective. I think Emily starts to realize this in the end, and I wanted to leave viewers with that moment.
4Did you have any personal experiences after the 9/11 attacks that helped inspire this film? I grew up in a commuter town in New Jersey. Several of my high school classmates lost parents that day, and a few of the neighboring towns lost dozens of people. It was really devastating and the sudden climate of fear was intensely palpable. I vividly remember riding the PATH train into Manhattan in November 2001 and seeing a group of Sikh men entering the same car as me. They were wearing American flag turbans and large pins that said "I am American" and the moment they stepped inside, everyone just froze and went silent. Clearly, the men were just as afraid to be on that train as everyone else. It was a really tense moment that I'll never forget. That's the feeling I tried to recreate when the two men confront Harpreet and Emily in the woods. Not anger, just intense fear of the unknown.
5This film feels like it could be a part of a larger story? Are there any plans to expand this into a larger short or a feature? Why or why not? I don't have any plans to expand this into a feature. I think this specific story works best in short form.
6What's next? I am developing a feature film about a young Asian American man forced to confront long sequestered insecurities as he pursues a relationship beyond friendship with an indeterminate romantic prospect. On the surface it is an unrequited love story, but tonally it is a darker, meditative film that thematically explores the subtle psychological effects of sexual racism and female objectification. I think the script is in a pretty good place now, so I’m starting to seek out potential creative producers.
About the Interviewer: Ben Hicks
Ben Hicks is a writer/director and co-founder of Fandependent Films. Ben is currently working on making Fandependent Films awesome and is finishing up his first feature film entitled Kids Go Free to Fun Fun Time which was selected for the 2017 IFP Narrative Lab.
The film with the most fans wins $1,000
For 2017 we are moving on from screening feature films and will be showcasing shorts.
For our Winter 2017 Festival, we are giving away $2,000 in prizes to the top three films.
The film with the most fans.
The film with the most views.
Our favorite film.
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