Photo of Director Vinay Giridhar and Producer Alex Sangha
at the Vancouver International South Asian Film Festival where Sher Film’s debut feature documentary, Emergence: Out of the Shadows, picked up Best Documentary and was the Closing Night Film of the festival.
Sher Films will be posting a casting notice soon for its upcoming documentary tentatively titled, An Immigrant Story. This film captures the journey of newcomers and settlers from different parts of India to different parts of Canada. We are looking to recruit people in India who are 19 years of age and older who have started the process to immigrate to Canada. Applicants can be of any sexual orientation or gender identity to apply. We want to have a diverse range of documentary subjects in the film.
AN IMMIGRANT STORY
Each immigrant following their dreams into a foreign land is a pioneer in their own terms.
I wish to create a unique film featuring the lived experiences of people immigrating from India to Canada. I am very passionate about this story because it is something I and many other immigrants can deeply relate to.
I came to Canada from India to study at Vancouver Film School. I had a lot riding on this big move as I lived in a small south Indian state, and this was my first experience travelling by air to a foreign country. With little money to my name, I had taken out a huge loan to fund my education and living expenses in Canada.
I was filled with big dreams of a bright future and my entire family back in India was rooting for my success. The pressure and expectations were already high. Me landing on Canadian soil felt like Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon. The first one in my family to go abroad in search of a better life.
But the moment I landed in Canada I had the worst shock of my life. I was refused entry into the country because of a minor document error and the immigration official couldn’t verify my identity. I was questioned and searched in a cold back office at the Vancouver International Airport. Never had I felt so humiliated and helpless in my life. Eventually, they let me leave the airport, but they confiscated my passport until they could confirm who I said I was. This was only the beginning of my journey.
The fact that I had a huge culture shock is an understatement. Everything was new to me. People from diverse backgrounds went to school with me, which was amazing. Fortunately, life in the big city fascinated me and I fell in love with the beautiful city of Vancouver.
These experiences are hardly unique. Many new immigrants struggle to find their feet in a foreign country. They struggle to feed themselves while supporting their families back in their home country. Many of them financially support their extended families and give back to their home communities in many different ways.
I feel strongly about the need to share the immigrant experience because we currently live in a world where immigrants are often portrayed as people who are here to steal jobs and commit crimes.
Immigrants are often helpless and prone to exploitation, mental and even physical assault since they are often scared to approach authorities or people of power.
I am planning to follow immigrants from the beginning of their journey in India. The big dreams, the stumbling blocks, and small victories. Picturing the challenges and hardships faced by these individuals in making their dream happen will help put a human face to the idea of immigrants.
Over the years I have met many people who have lived essentially in hiding because they are scared of being deported for whatever reason. Many even refuse to seek medical attention even if they face life-threatening illness or injury. I hope to supplement the film with interviews and stories of individuals who are essentially undocumented. Their stories will be compelling for the audiences to experience.
I wish to bring to light my own personal experiences and interview other immigrants to help humanize their stories.
I would like to showcase how their victories can slowly define their journey and their challenges make them even more resilient. I really hope this project will help western audiences build a new perspective with their unique life experiences. I hope this documentary shot in real time with real lived experiences will be a platform for me to learn so that my team can create a compelling original Canadian film about the immigrant experience.