I first had the opportunity to view a screening of Not a Feather, But a Dot. at Bill Sorvino’s 2012 Golden Door Film Festival that included a Q&A with the writer/director Teju Prasad after the film. It is important to note that this film addresses common cultural themes for the Indian American primarily from the perspective of the Hindu (Sindhu) culture. In this case, the narrow focus on the Hindu culture works because Prasad’s own voice is the thread that ties the narrative of this participatory style documentary.
Director Sheetal Shah, of the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) shares an anecdote in the film of a congressman that asked the HAF members if they were “Hindu Sunni or Hindu Shiite.” One of the viewers at the screening still asked Prasad to address the issue of the violence of Hindus in the media and further referenced the Taliban. The viewer’s misconception of the material, even in the immediacy and context of the screening, reinforces Prasad’s message that Indian Americans and Hindus are often misunderstood by their adopted homeland of America. In contrast the documentary captures the commonality of the immigrant experience, family life, and cultural expectations.
I obtained my own copy of the documentary and have watched it several times since the screening. The presentation offers a collection of personal narratives and expert commentary that range from the news stand owner to the post-9/11 organization of New York City Police Department’s Desi Society. This allows the viewer to understand the diverse lives of Indian Americans that are still inherently linked through cultural heritage. As a cultural historian and curator, I see this documentary as a valuable tool for educational, cultural interaction, and entertainment purposes.