Film Review: Punjabis Without Borders

Editor’s Note: The following has been published as received, unedited.

Asim Mukhtar Janjua (Photo Supplied)

Asim Mukhtar Janjua introduces New Zealand audiences to an eighteen-minute nonfiction film about his people, Punjabi migrants in South Auckland, by telling a little-known story in this part of the world. The partition of British India in 1947 that carved out India and Pakistan might be a history that some New Zealanders know. But here’s the twenty-first century narrative: eight Punjabi migrants from India and Pakistan now living in South Auckland speak about their shared culture and desire for harmonious cross-border relations.

By interviewing Sikh migrants from Punjab state in India and Muslim migrants from Punjab province in Pakistan, Asim presents views of people who not only speak the same mother tongue, Punjabi, but place great value on taking care of their cultural connections and warm relationships. We meet characters who are dedicated to serving their communities.

From the Indian side of Punjab, Mintu recalls his grandfather’s memories of Pakistan where he was born, and Parminder describes an emotional visit to his maternal village in Pakistan in 2019. Harjeet admits with all honesty that her opinion of Punjabi Pakistanis has changed for the better since living in New Zealand and developing a close collegial friendship with her radio co-broadcaster from Pakistan. Daljit felt at home attending the opening of the Kartarpur corridor in Pakistan, a visa-free border crossing for India’s Sikhs to visit a holy shrine. Community elders, Gurmeet and Ajit, impart pearls of wisdom on constructive ways to bring Punjabis together and maintain their closeness.

From the Pakistan side of Punjab we meet Abdul, the high commissioner who talks about the process for Sikhs to visit Kartarpur, and Naveed, who accentuates how Punjabis living in South Auckland enjoy brotherly bonds.

Punjabis Without Borders will be released online on 1 December 2020 and is Asim’s first time submission in the non-competition category of the New Zealand short film festival in 2021. If New Zealanders are sincere about embracing diversity in the arts and culture sector, then the content of this film would serve that particular public interest beautifully. Undoubtedly, this is a heartwarming film that showcases the humanity and big-heartedness of South Asian people when they move to South Auckland and establish their communities.

Punjabis Without Borders: 18:42 minutes, Punjabi, English subtitles.
Link to Trailer:
Written by Dr Teena Brown Pulu, Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Maori and Indigenous Development at Auckland University of Technology.

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