‘American Sikh’: Film About Bearded, Turban-Wearing Captain America

‘American Sikh’: Film About Bearded, Turban-Wearing Captain America

This past week the short, animated film ‘Sikh Captain America’ premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. The story is about “Vishavjit Singh, who after a lifetime of facing prejudice, self-doubt and violence, finally finds acceptance in a superhero costume.”

If you squinted you might see a semblance to the titular Marvel character. Besides the the red, white, and blue uniform, and his vibranium shield, this version of Captain America is equipped with a turban and beard.

Known as the ‘Sikh Captain America,’ when not donning the First Avenger persona, Singh is a writer, artist, and public speaker. Creator of sikhtoons.com, Singh recognized the need to combat the prejudices and hatred felt towards the Sikh community following 9/11. He saw storytelling as a great medium to create a better dialogue.

The 9/11 attacks took the insults and treatment Singh was used to experiencing to a whole new level.
Screenshot from the film “American Sikh’ Credit: https://www.americansikhfilm.com/

As Singh explained: “What little knowledge people may have about Sikhs most often boils down to two things: a turban and a beard. It’s no secret that this surface-level depiction in American media is often the villain or the clown. This is the image that needs to be transformed – and that’s exactly what Sikh Captain America, Vishavjit Singh, is set out to do.

Since 2013 Singh has traveled throughout the United States in his alter-ego combatting bigotry and intolerance.

In partnership with director Ryan Westra and the production house Studio Showoff, the short film (roughly 10 minutes long) is a combination of animation and archival footage. Following the life of Singh, the story explains the main beliefs and practices of the Sikh faith in a light-hearted, yet serious tone.

Singh and Westra, co-directors of the animated short film "American Sikh," said they wanted to counter the lack of positive Sikh representation in media.
Photograph of Vishavjit Singh and his co-producer Ryan Westra Credit: Drew Heskett

Through the comic book style, Singh hopes to bring attention and representation to the big screen about the Sikh community. In combination with his love of cartooning, Singh hopes to challenge biases that Americans have about what it means to be an American (and who we choose to be our superheroes).

“Sikh Captain America is changing the narrative on Sikhs (and anyone else who may not look “traditionally American”) — creating a new American hero that challenges societal expectations and norms. This film also follows his journey of accepting his own identity.” So, even if this superhero isn’t fighting Red Skull or hanging out with Iron Man, his mission is just as important.

Here is a link to the trailer: https://vimeo.com/user109781551

Here is a podcast from May 2023 of Singh discussing the project:

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