“After 9/11 everyone was scared. First it was terrorist against American. Then it was Americans against Americans. A lot of innocent people were hurt because [it was] thought they looked like the enemy.”
—Rana Singh Sodhi
Four days after the 9/11 attacks, Balbir Singh Sodhi was gunned down at his Phoenix area gas station by a man named Frank Roque. To Roque, Balbir Sodhi’s beard and turban—articles of his Sikh faith—symbolized the face of America’s new enemy. Seeking retaliation for 9/11, Roque killed Sodhi and went on to shoot at a Lebanese American man and fire multiple rounds of ammunition outside an Afghan American family’s home.
A DREAM IN DOUBT follows Rana Singh Sodhi, Balbir’s brother, as he attempts to fight the hate threatening his family and community. The Sodhis had fled ethnic violence in India to pursue their version of the American dream. But less than a year after Balbir’s murder, Sukhpal Sodhi, Rana’s next-eldest brother, is killed in mysterious circumstances while driving a cab in San Francisco. Nine months later, Rana’s friend Avtar Chiera is shot by three men who yell, “Go back to where you came from!” Three weeks after Avtar’s shooting, another friend, Inderjit Singh, is physically assaulted and threatened with death while working at a convenience store. These incidents receive little to no coverage in the U.S. media, and a national dialogue concerning post-9/11 hate crimes and ethnic profiling is sorely missing.
Wanting justice for his brothers’ murders, Rana is motivated towards social action. He demands that America live up to its ideals of freedom, equality and justice for all. Or is it justice for some? To guard his own school-aged children from bullying and harassment, Rana and his wife visit their children’s school to answer questions about Sikhs. Rana educates Phoenix-area residents and meets with local Sikh Americans to discuss the increase in hate crimes. But with each new case of violence that targets his community, he is forced to question just how much he should suffer.
While the attackers in these crimes view themselves as proud defenders of America, Rana insists that their actions contradict the core values of his adopted homeland. In A DREAM IN DOUBT, he challenges his fellow citizens to think deeply about individual responsibility in the face of bigotry and what it means to be a true patriot.
Filmmaker Tami Yeager provided updates in March 2008 on what the members of the Sodhi family have been up to since filming ended.
The Sodhis have been doing really well since we finished filming. Rana and his family have opened a new gas station and Indian restaurant in the Phoenix valley. Both businesses are doing well and keeping the family very busy.
Rana’s son, Satpreet, who was eight when we began filming and was shown being introduced to his new school in the film, will turn 13 this summer and enter junior high school fall 2008. He’s most excited about skateboarding, playing basketball and “hanging out with family.” A year after we filmed the school scene, Satpreet became an “ambassador” at his elementary school and helped new students adjust to their new school.
Rana’s daughter, Rose, is about to turn 14 and will begin the ninth grade in fall 2008. She loves hanging out with friends and helping out at the family restaurant. Rana’s youngest son, Deep, who was four when we began shooting the documentary, is nine years old. Deep is into football and skateboarding and is also excited about the presidential election.Rana recently told me about another incident of ethnic hatred he suffered in early 2008. Someone pulled up to his new gas station as he was painting a sign, and rather than ask for directions (as Rana expected), the driver yelled at him to leave the country or he would be killed. Fortunately, the situation did not escalate. Though Rana was unnerved, he vowed to redouble his educational efforts to create a community that celebrates diversity.