The release of Vinay Giridhar’s award-winning debut feature documentary, Emergence: Out of the Shadows, in September 2021, was really remarkable considering the significant barriers the film faced. This is not only because the film completed production in the middle of the COVID pandemic, but also managed to be fully funded with a small surplus with consistent ongoing fundraising from month to month while managing to recruit emerging BIPOC and LGBTQ+ filmmakers and cast and crew that were willing to stick with the project for nearly three years. This team effort led to a unique one-of-a-kind emotionally gripping documentary that centers on the narratives of gay Punjabi Sikh people and the reactions of their parents to their coming out journey. The film provided very rare and critical content for the Punjabi Sikh and broader South Asian community in Metro Vancouver and around the world including in India.
Nearly one year later, I would like to share the top ten highlights of the documentary as we enter the final few months of our film festival circuit and approach three screenings in Metro Vancouver at the North Delta Centre for the Arts on August 13, Vancouver Queer Film Festival on August 19, and City Centre Library in Surrey on September 24.
TOP TEN HIGHLIGHTS OF EMERGENCE
CLOSING NIGHT FILM – Emergence was the Closing Night Film of the South Asian Film Festival of Montreal and the Vancouver International South Asian Film Festival where it picked up Best Documentary.
CANADIAN SCREEN AWARDS – Emergence was an official selection at five Canadian Screen Award qualifying festivals including the Vancouver International South Asian Film Festival, Vancouver Asian Film Festival, Vancouver Queer Film Festival, NorthwestFest International Documentary Festival in Edmonton, and the Reelworld Film Festival in Toronto.
TOP FILM FESTIVALS – Emergence was an official selection at Out On Film in Atlanta which is an Academy Award qualifying festival, and Frameline in San Francisco which is a BAFTA qualifying festival.
BROADCAST TELEVISION – Emergence was picked up for television by three Canadian broadcasters including TVO, Knowledge Network, and OUTtv.
EDUCATIONAL MARKET – Sher Vancouver signed a deal with Moving Images Distribution of Vancouver to distribute Emergence to the educational market in Canada.
SCREENINGS IN SCHOOL – Envision Financial came on board to sponsor Sher Vancouver’s Screenings In Schools program. Over 35 screenings of Emergence have been held in high schools, colleges, universities, and the community in BC. This includes SFU Surrey, Douglas College, University of the Fraser Valley, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Vancouver Island University, and many more.
MEDIA COVERAGE – CBC was the first to profile Emergence: Out of the Shadows. CBC did a major story for all their platforms including radio, television, and online. CBC anchor Anita Bathe called Emergence producer Alex Sangha an “emerging documentarian” two months before the film had its world premiere at Cinema Diverse in Palm Springs where it picked up the Festival Favorite award as voted by the audience.
ENDORSEMENT – The documentary received a rare endorsement from a member of the BC Government. “Following the journeys of Kayden, Jag and Amar, Emergence is an intimate, honest look at the challenges of coming out in the South Asian community. It is an inspiring film that shines a light on the beauty and strength of the LGBT2SQ+ members of our community. Touching on themes of discrimination, identity, acceptance, and family, these stories share a powerful thread of connection, love, and understanding. I commend Sher Vancouver and everyone involved for the compassion and courage in telling these stories,” Rachna Singh, Parliamentary Secretary for Anti-Racism Initiatives, Government of British Columbia.
FUNDING – The film was entirely funded by BC and Canadian funders including local governments such as the City of Surrey, City of New Westminster, City of Delta, and City of Vancouver; local unions such as HSA, BCGEU, Unifor – BC Regional Council, Unifor Local 3000, PSAC - BC Region, CUPE BC, MoveUP, UFCW Local 1518, BC Ferry and Marine Worker’s Union, as well as Telefilm Canada, BC Arts Council, Creative BC, Vancity, Vancouver Pride Society, Government of BC, Hari Sharma Foundation, Anti-Oppression Educators Collective, Rogers Group of Funds, Metropolis at Metrotown, and Guildford Town Centre, as well as the Port of Vancouver, 100 Gay Men for a Cause YVR, and RBC who are funding the creation of short versions of the feature documentary for high schools. An informative and very useful Teacher’s Discussion Guide for the film was also created by social justice educators Annie Ohana and Sharon Sehrai.
TEAMWORK – The film received support from the Business for Producers program at the National Screen Institute (NSI). Established producer Avi Federgreen provided mentorship via the NSI for producer Alex Sangha. Alex provided opportunities for a largely BIPOC and/or LGBTQ+ cast and crew including first-time director Vinay Giridhar who is originally from Kerala, India. The key cast members include local Vancouver visual artist Jag Nagra and student Kayden Bhangu who are both of Punjabi Sikh origin and identify on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. Most importantly, thank you to Jag’s family and especially her parents, Avtar Singh Nagra and Rajwant Kaur Nagra, and my mother, Jaspal Kaur Sangha, for playing key roles in the film. The stories of the parents were really impactful to witness. Special thanks to consulting producer Sean Farnel who was the former festival programmer at HOT DOCS, and our marvelous post-production team including Tyler F Gamsby who did color correction and manage our post-workflow, post-sound, and music by Ricardo Ochoa, described video by Richard Crooks, and subtitles by Line21 Media Services Ltd. Music was also sourced from Bedtracks in Toronto.
Upon reflection, I would like to state that, “everything is possible if we work together.” Emergence: Out of the Shadows was really a community project. Many people and organizations in Metro Vancouver and British Columbia came together to give a small grassroots film production non-profit charity like Sher Vancouver a chance. The entire Emergence: Out of the Shadows team is full of gratitude.
We are now working on our next feature documentary, I, Migrant, about the journey of immigrants from different parts of India to Canada shot in real-time as the events happen.
For more information on I, Migrant check out the official website
To make a donation to I, Migrant contact firstname.lastname@example.org
UPCOMING SCREENINGS OF EMERGENCE
North Delta Centre for the Arts – August 13
Vancouver Queer Film Festival – August 19
City Centre Library – Surrey Libraries – September 24
OFFICIAL WEBSITE OF EMERGENCE
OFFICIAL TRAILER OF EMERGENCE