ICAAD Artivist Vishavjit Singh’s animated short film highlights how generosity and acceptance can triumph in the face of discrimination

disability rights

ICAAD Artivist Vishavjit Singh’s new short film, American Sikh, is making waves across the United States, sending a poignant message about how hope and acceptance can triumph over intolerance and discrimination. 

The film tells the true story of an American-born, turban-wearing Sikh illustrator, writer, performance artist, diversity speaker and creator of Sikhtoons.com, Vishavjit Singh, who after a lifetime of facing prejudice, self-doubt and violence, finally finds acceptance in a superhero costume. Singh is publicly known for his Captain America persona — a turbaned and bearded Sikh — fighting against bigotry, intolerance and perceptions of what an American should look like post 9/11. The film was created by Vishavjit Singh and director Ryan Westra, and was animated by Studio Showoff. 

After a global premiere at Tribeca Film Festival, the film has won best short animation at Sidewalk Film Festival, best animation at San Diego International Film Festival, the grand jury award for best short documentary at the Tasveer Film Festival, and even more special and honorable mentions. Recently, Oscar-winning producer Guneet Monga Kapoor and Michelin-starred chef and filmmaker Vikas Khanna boarded the Oscar-qualified short as executive producers.

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 in Western media is often depicted in films as 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. 

“Representation is critical. From kids to even adults, there are some of us in America who do not see us represented in the media. Having dressed up as Captain America, for years now, I connect to the comic character. A superhero to me is someone who is in touch with their vulnerability, and thereby doesn’t allow others to abuse them. Who can stand up for themselves, and by proxy, someone if they are getting abused,” said Vishavjit.

The film is helping to change the narrative on Sikhs and anyone else who may not look “traditionally American” — creating a new American hero that challenges societal expectations and norms. While showcasing the discrimination, intolerance and identity struggles that come with being American and Sikh, the film also shows a path forward – highlighting how acceptance and generosity can sprout from the smallest interaction.

ICAAD is proud to be a Co-Executive Producer of American Sikh, and to be collaborating with Vishavjit as part of our Artivism-in-Residence program. The arts are a powerful tool for human rights – playing a critical role in challenging harmful narratives and stereotypes, building solidarity and expanding representation in media. American Sikh does just that, and we are thrilled that the film will soon be shared with the world.

To stay up to date with the film, visit the American Sikh website.