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The Reeler Blog

Dream in Doubt Premieres in NYC

Rana Singh Sodhi, the subject of Tami Yeager's new doc A Dream in Doubt (Photo: Tami Yeager)

Greenpoint documentarian Tami Yeager brings her feature A Dream in Doubt to Lincoln Center tonight, the latest screening in the Film Society's Independents Night series programmed with IFP. Four years in the making and barely a month removed from its world premiere at Slamdance, the film follows the family of Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh gas station owner in Mesa, Az., who was the first hate-crime casualty in the aftermath of 9/11. Yeager pays particularly close attention to Balbir's younger brother Rana, who must take on new leadership roles in both the family and his city to challenge the waves of violence and rancor threatening the Sikh community.

"He's very much an activist, and he has always wanted to tell the story of his brother's murder as a way to prevent hate crimes," Yeager told The Reeler in a recent interview. "It's very much been his focus. I think of him allowing me and my cameras to come into his life very much as a part of that; it took a lot of courage for him to do that, because the Sikh community has really very rarely -- if at all -- been in national media. This family was one of the first ones to actually be seen. ... In the first few years when I started to make the film, I feel like there was a lot less interest in talking about it than there is now. It feels like something about the fifth anniversary passing that people are really ready to talk about it. So I think the timing is right now."

Yeager had previously researched Sikhs in the late '90s while working on another documentary. After 9/11, anticipating the worst as a vengeful minority sought an ethnic scapegoat in America, she had discovered the story of Balbir Sodhi's death and followed it throughout her work on a separate project. In 2003, when the accused killer's trial was set to begin, Yeager found the story's contemporary hook and acquired access to film Rana Sodhi and his family during and after -- well after, like four years after -- the trial.

"For Rana," Yeager said, "I think by the time I approached him, he was in a position where he felt like, 'You know, this is incredible. I have to be open to this.' And I think that very much he felt like he should be an agent for change and an agent for speaking out about this. ... When I first screened the film for him, that was a very powerful experience for me -- and terrifying, to be honest; I was so afraid -- I really worked very hard to tell his story from his point of view but acknowledge that I'm the one doing the storytelling. But he loved it. He felt like I got it right, and that it communicated all the things that he fees like he's experienced and that he wants to share."

Yeager and Rana Sodhi will both be on hand at the Walter Reade Theater for a discussion following tonight's screening; after its New York premiere, A Dream in Doubt is slated for an appearance at the San Francisco Asian American Film Festival. Yeager added that she expects a likely public television debut this fall.

"In the first few years when I started to make the film, I feel like there was a lot less interest in talking about it than there is now," she said. "It feels like something about the fifth anniversary passing that people are really ready to talk about it. So I think the timing is right now, and I'm very excited about that."

Posted at February 22, 2007 2:13 PM

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