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Kaur's 'Divided We Fall' documents post-9/11 hate

With all the young filmmakers in town this week holding court after screenings of their work, you could get a free education on what it takes to carve an independent path in this competitive industry.

Tonight at 7 at the Harvard Film Archive, 25-year-old writer/producer Valarie Kaur will screen and talk about her film ''Divided We Fall," which is in its final stages of production. Kaur traveled the country after Sept. 11 to document hate crimes committed against people who ''looked Arab" and the effects of this new atmosphere on Sikhs, Muslims, and Arabs in America. The film took Kaur, who is Sikh, to Punjab, India, where her grandfather grew up, to interview the widow of Balbir Singh Sodhi, the Sikh gas station owner who was murdered in Mesa, Arizona, on Sept. 15, 2001.

Kaur is studying religion and ethics at Harvard Divinity School and plans on attending Yale Law School in September. Back in 2001, she had a camera and hardly any filmmaking experience when she took a leave of absence during her junior year at college to work on the film. She returned to California to write an honors thesis and ended up winning Stanford's Golden Medal in the Humanities in June 2003.

In the fall of 2003, a friend of Kaur's helped her craft a half-hour excerpt of the footage, which screened at the Spinning Wheel Film Festival in Toronto. Filmmaker Sharat Raju, who is also in his 20s, saw it and joined on as director to turn the material into a feature-length documentary. (Raju's short film ''American Made," a fictional work about Sikh American life after Sept. 11, will have its television debut on PBS's ''Independent Lens" series this month.) A rough cut of the full-length ''Divided We Fall" premiered at the Spinning Wheel festival in October.

Tonight's screening and discussion closes out the HFA's documentary series ''Beyond Truth: Contemporary Nonfiction Cinema." Details about tonight's event are at 617-495-4700 and; more about the film is online at and

CONVERSATION WITH: On Tuesday at 7 p.m., also at the Harvard Film Archive, Harvard grad and Jamaica Plain resident Andrew Bujalski will talk about his 2005 film ''Mutual Appreciation." The film stars Justin Rice of the band Bishop Allen (named after the street in Cambridge's Central Square) and follows a Boston musician whose band has broken up, sending him to New York City in search of a new drummer.

Bujalski's released his first film, ''Funny Ha Ha," in 2003 and released it that year onto the festival circuit, where it was well liked but didn't find a distributor. In early 2004, Bujalski won the ''Someone to Watch" award at the Independent Spirit Awards. The film was picked up and put into formal theatrical release the next year, with folks like the Globe's Wesley Morris calling it ''a smartly observed, unpretentious, and unconventional comedy of manners -- or more properly, it's a comedy of mannerisms, for none of its addled characters seems capable of composing a thought without stopping along the way to consider it."

As with ''Funny Ha Ha," Bujalski wrote, directed, and acted in ''Mutual Appreciation," which he described in a Globe interview two years ago as having ''similar themes of youthful confusion, but tonally darker, stranger." The same investor will be financing a theatrical release of the film, in September.

MORE DIRECTORS: The annual Boston Gay and Lesbian Film/Video Festival opens Wednesday and runs until May 21 at the Museum of Fine Arts. A slew of filmmakers and their subjects will be in town, starting with Northampton-based spoken-word artist Alix Olson and director Samantha Farinella, whose documentary ''Left Lane: On the road with Alix Olson" opens the women's portion of the fest on Wednesday at 7:45 p.m.

Thursday's Men's Opening Night features Q. Allan Brocka and his ''Boy Culture" at 7:45. Other festival events this week include ''Mom the Movie," on Friday at 7 p.m. Director Erin Greenwell and Boston native Julie Goldman, the star, will be attending. Another highlight is ''Hineini: Coming Out in a Jewish High School," next Sunday at 6 p.m. That documentary is about one student's fight to start a gay-straight alliance at Gann Academy, the New Jewish High School of Greater Boston. Director Irena Fayngold, who is an associate producer and editor in educational programming at WGBH, will be present.

Information about all the films in the festival and their times can be found at 617-267-9300 and

ALSO IN TOWN: Artist Jo Dery, who organized the first Providence Women's Film Festival in 2001, brings a collection of her short films to the ''Chicks Make Flicks" film series Thursday at 7 p.m. Among the works that will be screened is the seven-minute ''Echoes of Bats and Men," an experimental piece about a colony of bats that takes over a factory town. The event is cosponsored by the MIT Program in Women's Studies and Women in Film & Video/New England, and takes place at the MIT campus at 77 Massachusetts Ave., in room 6-120. Information is at 781-788-6607 and

AND CONGRATULATIONS: A team of Emerson College students led by Danny Madden and Anthony Saccoccia won the Boston round of the CampusMovieFest 06, which bills itself as ''the world's largest student film festival." All entries had to be created during Campus MovieFest week with iMovie software. The showcase screening played to 1,000 people at John Hancock Hall, according to festival cofounder David Roemer. Best picture ''Elevator Girl" and the 15 other short films it competed against are posted online at All 16 finalists move on to the International Grand Finale, says Roemer, which takes place June 10 in Atlanta.

Leslie Brokaw can be reached at

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