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August 19, 1999
Documentary On Desis In The Big Apple
Pious Kat in New York Following the acclaim for its documentaries on Korean and Dominican immigrants in New York City, WNET-TV, Channel 13, has started work on a documentary highlighting the achievements of the south Asian community.
"Like in the other documentaries, we let the people tell their own stories," says director Alan Glazen. "We want these documentaries be spontaneous." There is a secret agenda, though, he admits laughingly.
"We want to celebrate the diverse communities that make New York such a lively city. At the same time, we also want to question some of the stereotypes others have of a particular community."
Shebana Coelho, one of the producers of the documentary, adds:
"Our goal in producing this program is to give the community an opportunity to fashion a portrait of itself.
"Accordingly, the film will examine the wide spectrum of south Asians in New York and illustrate both the shared histories and diverse economic and social backgrounds of community members," she says. "The format will include interviews with well-known figures and profiles of individuals who will be telling their stories for the first time."
"We will depict the texture of everyday lives, the process of migration and cultural change, and the ways in which class, religion and region have generated a multitude of lifestyles within the diaspora."
There are an estimated half a million Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Sri Lankans living in and around New York City.
Glazen and Coelho say they have "plenty of Indian sources and characters lined up" but they are in need of contacts among other south Asian communities.
See below for specific queries (of course, if you know of a compelling Indian-American who should be profiled do let them know).
PBS is looking for suggestions for the following stories:
1. High profile Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Sri Lankans -South Asians who are typical success stories.
2. Articulate Pakistani news vendors, construction workers, or small store owners.
3. Couples who met through matrimonials and are about to marry. The film-makers want to show how the matchmaking process has adapted to a new cultural context. Ideally, they would like young south Asians who have grown up in the US and are opting to use the matrimonials to find partners.
4. An ambitious, driven software expert (preferably from Bangalore or Bombay) who represents the most recent wave of young, professional immigrants.
5. Expert to speak on the religious diversity of the subcontinent. Ideally someone who can also cover the establishment and spread of places of worship in NY for the immigrant community.
5. Sikhs who run gas stations.
6. Bangladeshi auto shop owners.
7. Sri Lankans in the service industry.
8. A "new mufti" in NY who dispenses Islamic counsel on the web.
Write to email@example.com or phone 212-397 7790 with any information.
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