Optimism in the Face of Hatred

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acd4e16307f0c0171d42a994a993b6e3-2Watch A Dream in Doubt on May 13, 2008 at 10 p.m. (check local listings), presented by PBS’ Independent Lens series.

A DREAM IN DOUBT. Director: Tami Yeager. A co-production of TRY Productions and the Independent Television Service, in association with the Center for Asian American Media, with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

A Dream in Doubt is a documentary that tells the story of one of the first hate crimes that took place after the 9/11 attacks. Balbir Singh Sodhi was a gas station owner in Phoenix, Arizona who was shot by a man who drove by Sodhi’s gas station in a pick-up truck. By the time the authorities arrived, the assailant was long gone, and Sodhi was dead.

The film starts off with harrowing imagery of the many Indians, predominantly Sikhs, who have suffered from hate crimes in the post-9/11 era. Audio recordings of the Sodhi family calling the police on the day of the crime are also particularly haunting, as one can only imagine what this family must have gone through.

The film slows down as it goes on to show the immigrant experience through the eyes of the remaining Sodhi brothers. It is an experience different to that of the doctors, engineers, and students who come to the U.S. on H-1B and F-1 visas. We see the Sodhi family grow through the years as each brother is sponsored, and they provide an invaluable support system for each other. The director shows some clichéd images, such as the daughter of one of the Sodhi brothers saying the Pledge of Allegiance in school, but it is only to point out the stark contrast of the immigrant parents from the purely American children.

The film also follows the trial of Frank Roque, the man who killed Balbir Singh Sodhi. One can’t help but feel enraged when his lawyer pleas “insanity” as Roque’s defense. Through excerpts of the court case, as well as interviews with Roque, we get a glimpse into the mind of this disturbed individual.

A consistent thread in the film is the positive attitude of the Sodhi family. Despite having suffered great tragedies, they share an optimistic attitude towards America and what it has given them. Though slow at times, A Dream in Doubt conveys an important message about racism that is prevalent in our society. More importantly, it shows us how a peace-loving community can fight bigotry, without losing faith in humanity.

Antara Bhardwaj is an independent filmmaker based in San Francisco.

 

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