Milan Film Showing Links 9/11, Racism

February 6, 2007

Author: Allie Lowe

Source: The Dartmouth

In the months following Sept. 11, 2001, Samir Akhter, then eight years old, can recall being called "Bin Laden's son" by other boys at school. The boys would smash Akhter, who is of Pakistani descent, in the face with their lunch pails while taunting him. As years passed, however, the Bin Laden taunts ended.

Now when Akhter is teased, his offenders call him Saddam Hussein.

This is just one of the stories recounted in "Divided We Fall: Americans in the Aftermath," a documentary presented by Dartmouth's South Asian group Milan and other cosponsoring organizations, in 105 Dartmouth Hall on Monday night. The film, which was edited down from 130 hours of raw footage, follows filmmaker Valarie Kaur in a cross-country journey to explore hate crimes and prejudice after 9/11.

Kaur was motivated to make the documentary after hearing the story of Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh man who was shot outside of a gas station in Arizona on Sept. 15, 2001, in an apparent hate crime. Angered by this and other acts of violence which received scant media coverage, Kaur, who was 20 at the time, temporarily left Stanford University to work on the project. Joined by her cousin, who acted as a cameraman, Kaur traveled across the country looking for stories about the event that she felt were not being told as America strived to present a face of harmony.

"How could both be the face of America?" Kaur questions in the film. "This unity, and this hatred?"