Ryan Westra and Vishavjit Singh teamed up on AMERICAN SIKH to bring more diverse representation and experiences into today’s media and to challenge perceptions of what an American (and a superhero) can look like. 2023 Academy Award winner Guneet Monga Kapoor (Elephant Whisperer) and one of Vanity Fair’s top ten chef’s Vika Khanna serve as Executive Producers for this important film.
Vishavjit Singh is publicly known for his Captain America persona — a Sikh man equipped with his turban and beard — fighting against bigotry, intolerance and perceptions of what an American should look like. But Singh, the only member of his family born in the U.S., didn’t always feel he could embrace his identity this way.
The true and unlikely story of an American born, turban-wearing Sikh man, Vishavjit Singh, who after a lifetime of facing prejudice, self-doubt and violence, finally finds acceptance in a superhero costume.
Guneet Monga Kapoor is a trailblazing filmmaker, not only is she the first producer in India to win an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short for Elephant Whisperer, she is also one of the first producers from India to be invited into the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Science. Guneet is the founder of Sikhya Entertainment, a Mumbai-based production house. She has produced close to 30 feature films including ground-breaking cinema such as LUNCHBOX, MONSOON SHOOTOUT and MASSAN. This incredible woman was also one of the Executive Producers behind PERIOD END OF SENTENCE, which won an Academy Award in 2019.
Vikas Khanna is an internationally acclaimed Indian American chef, filmmaker, and author. He is a James Beard nominee and one of the first Indian chefs to be awarded a Michelin Star in the U.S. He has featured amongst the 10 most influential chefs in the world by Vanity Fair. Vikas is the author of 41 award winning books, and the creator of HOLY KITCHENS creating awareness of Sikhism through community kitchens. THE LAST COLOR marks Khanna’s debut as a film writer and director, which raised awareness of the disinheritance of widows, whilst BAREFOOT EMPRESS focussed on education for girls in India.
AMERICAN SIKH was created in partnership with Singh as the director/producer and Los Angeles-based director Ryan Westra. It was animated by Studio Showoff, a Melbourne-based production house founded by Ivan Dixon and Sean Zwan that has produced work for Childish Gambino, HBO and Cartoon Network.
Director Ryan Westra has been fortunate to capture many powerful and important stories. He’s traveled rural Punjab capturing undocumented stories of a Sikh genocide, documented the struggle of indigenous peoples against oil companies in Montana, followed the HIV/AIDS outreach work of an NGO in Mozambique, edited an HBO feature documentary on reproductive rights, filmed the intensity of para-athletes pushing their limits, shot content for Headspace around a monastery in the Himalayas about mindfulness, shot a documentary about re-housing the most at-risk homeless in Los Angeles, and has had minor roles on Netflix and HBO series that deal with wrongful conviction and bringing cult leaders to justice.
Director/Producer Vishavjit Singh is a New York City based illustrator, writer, performance artist, diversity speaker and creator of Sikhtoons.com. He got his spark for cartooning in the post 9/11 tragedy when Americans with turbaned and bearded countenance became targets of hate/bias crimes. For the past few years Vishavjit has been traveling across the U.S. with his Sikh Captain America persona armed with a turban, beard and humor to tackle fear, anxiety, bigotry and intolerance. He uses storytelling as a tool to create a space for challenging conversations around identity, race, bias, vulnerability and how to be agents for change. Vishavjit hosts talks & keynotes in schools, universities, government agencies and companies including Google, Apple, NASA & Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. His message and work has been covered by a number of news outlets, including the New York Times, NPR, BBC, The Atlantic, Huffington Post, The Guardian and Time Magazine.
Not only was this incredible film featured on Good Morning America and CNN, in just over a month it won four top film awards including Best Short Animation at Sidewalk Film Festival in Birmingham, Alabama, Best Animation at San Diego International Film Festival, Grand Jury Award for Best Short Documentary at Tasveer Film Festival in Seattle and the Audience Choice Award at Tasveer Film Festival. AMERICAN SIKH also received a special mention at Chicago International Film Festival in Best Short Documentary and an Honorable Mention at Tallgrass Film Festival in Documentary Short Film.
AMERICAN SIKH has qualified to be considered for a 2024 Academy® Award.