American Made

May 09, 2006

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About the Documentary

“I wanted to tell the story of a father and a son,” says Writer/Director Sharat Raju. So begins American Made, a conflict between a father and a son, a reflection on assimilation versus identity, faith versus compromise. As the sun sets on the American desert and coyotes lay in wait, will someone stop to help? What measures will it take?

When a Sikh American family’s SUV breaks down on a remote desert highway during their all-American road trip to the Grand Canyon, they are confronted by more than the threat of an unfriendly terrain. Anant, an Indian-born Sikh who wears a traditional turban, sees this as just another challenge—an opportunity to save his family and tell great stories about their escape from danger.

His wife, Nageena, is not thrilled. Not only did she insist on taking the interstate but she is certain that this will be the last family trip after her eldest son Jagdesh moves to New York City. Spending time with her sons in a smoking car in the desert is not what she had in mind for their family trip.

Jagdesh just wants to get his cell phone to work so they can get some help, get on the road, get the trip over with, so he can start his new life. His younger brother Ranjit, like most teenagers, would rather be anywhere else than with his parents, and being stuck in the middle of nowhere is trying his patience.

Anant’s mechanical skills are limited and he can’t get the SUV to start, so he decides to wave down one of the cars that pass sporadically on the remote road. No one stops. The turban-clad Anant, undaunted, plans to try again. Ranjit isn’t so sure that anything his father will do can help. He says brazenly, “Dad, no one is going to stop, because you look like a terrorist.” “Is that what you think?” Anant replies, bewildered. Ranjit shrugs, “That’s what they think.”

Anant, who loosely quotes Robert Frost, “I took the road less traveled…” believes that in America one can have the freedom to be who they are and practice their faith and traditions. Yet to the young Ranjit, his father’s turban and beard represent a barrier to their family’s ultimate survival.

The son of Indian-born parents, American Made Writer/Director Sharat Raju and his family experienced the alienation that swept the United States post-September 11, 2001. Through the Singh family, stranded in the desert, Raju explores the conflict between faith, freedom, assimilation and modernization—themes that immigrants continue to struggle with when recreating family in a new world.


The Filmmakers

Sharat Raju
Sharat Raju received an MFA in Directing at the American Film Institute. American Made, his thesis film, earned both of the AFI’s top two honors in directing. The film has screened at numerous film festivals around the world, winning 17 international awards. Among the accolades are: Tribeca Film Festival Student Visionary Award; Angelus Award Grand Prize; San Diego Film Festival Best Short Film and British Academy of Film and Television Arts and Sciences (Los Angeles) Excellence in Short Filmmaking Award.

In September 2004, Sharat appeared in Esquire magazine as one of 20 young film school graduates to watch. Prior to graduate school he worked for acclaimed casting director Mali Finn on feature films including 8 Mile, Matrix Revolutions, and Matrix Reloaded. Sharat graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in English and earned national awards as a college journalist. He is currently directing and producing the feature documentary, Divided We Fall: Americans in the Aftermath, a chronicle of hate crimes in the United States after Sept. 11, 2001. Sharat has re-teamed with his American Made crew to bring Divided We Fall to the screen.

Marcus Cano
After graduating from Brigham Young University in Utah with degrees in film production and business management, Marcus Cano worked as a producer for KBYU, a PBS television station in Utah, and then at the television newsmagazine Dateline NBC, in New York. He earned an MFA in Producing at the American Film Institute. His Masters thesis production, AMERICAN MADE, earned 17 international awards and screened at nearly 40 film festivals across the globe. Cano also created and operated the highly successful online casting company, HollywoodCasting.net. He is currently completing the feature documentary, Megarexia, and producing Divided We Fall: Americans in the Aftermath.

 

 

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