A passion for human rights and advocacy led award-winning author, social worker, and DOC BC | YK | NWT Member Alex Sangha to embark on his filmmaking journey.
Alex first became a social worker out of a desire to help people and make a difference.
“I’m doing documentaries that I think [are] social advocacy. Counseling and teaching, documentary filmmaking…I feel [it’s] just another way to do social work.”
Sher Films, Sangha’s production company and home for his documentary films, is a division of Sher Vancouver LGBTQ Friends Society, an organization he founded in April 2008.
As a gay and South Asian man, Sangha understands the need for advocacy work in the South Asian and LGBTQ+ community.
The non-profit sets out to address alienation and discrimination faced by the community through counselling, workshops, peer support, educational outreach services, and much more.
Sher Vancouver has made several strides for the LGBTQ+ community in Vancouver, some of which include:
- having the first-ever Sikh float in Vancouver’s Pride Parade in 2008
- being awarded “Organization of the Year” by New West Pride in 2015
- being the first LGBTQ+ South Asian group to march in the Vancouver Vaisakhi Parade in 2017
In September 2018, Sangha released his first film, My Name was January. The award-winning short documentary directed by Elina Gress and Lenée Son looked at the transgender woman of color January Marie Lapuz.
“She was our friend. She was a social coordinator of my non-profit [Sher Vancouver]. I wasn’t happy with how the media was blaming her…saying she had a ‘high-risk lifestyle.’”
The film went on to screen at 66 film festivals and won 15 awards. On Transgender Day of Remembrance last year, My Name Was January had three different screenings in Vancouver at the same time.
“I thought, ‘Wow. This is impact’.”
Sher Film’s most recent documentary, Emergence: Out of the Shadows, directed by Vinay Giridhar, looks at the coming-out stories of South Asian LGBTQ+ members and the cultural and religious implications that can affect their journey to self-acceptance and liberation.
It provides a unique perspective that sheds light on Sikh culture, the LGBTQ+ community, and traditional family values. The film offers a unique perspective by looking at interactions and reactions from their parents.
“You not only hear [their] stories, but you get to hear from the parents. It’s an eye-opener…It’s a process for them [as well].”
Alex is working to distribute his film but also sees another endeavour on the horizon. Sangha hopes to make Emergence: Out of the Shadows available to schools for educational purposes.
“We want to reach high school kids and people in colleges. We want to educate our community.”
Sangha’s work is a testament to how documentaries speak truth to power; Sangha’s experience in other departments of social advocacy has helped him approach his filmmaking in a multi-faceted way.
About the writer
DOC’s Communications Coordinator Meara Khanna interviewed Alex Sangha for this spotlight.
Meara is a recent graduate of the Ryerson School of Journalism and an avid documentary fan.
Visit Meara’s Linked In portfolio to keep up-to-date on her work.