40 mins. 2016, India
In Punjabi & English w/subtitles
Directed by Harjant Gill
Produced by PSBT (Public Service Broadcasting Trust)
Additional Funding: The Wenner-Gren Foundation
What happens to families in the absence of sons? What happens to land in the absence of farmers? What happens to villages in the absence of men? Sent Away Boys weaves together stories of individual ambitions and family biographies from Punjab (India) to chronicle the gradual transformation of agrarian landscape and patriarchal traditions through ongoing transnational migration. As the promise of a secure future in agriculture grows increasingly uncertain for young men across the region, escaping India to join the low-wage labor in countries like Canada and USA becomes their sole aspiration. In rural Punjab, being a successful man now entails leaving their village, traveling abroad, and sending money home. Through interviews with men preparing to undertake often risky journeys and women awaiting the return of their sons, brothers and husbands, Sent Away Boys shows how young men's decisions to emigrate implicate families and communities across North India.
2017 Cinema Verite, Iran International Doc Film Festival (upcoming)
2017 NY Indian Film Festival
2017 DC South Asian Film Festival
2017 PickUrFlick Film Festival, New Delhi
Winner: Best Director (Documentary)
2017 Royal Anthropological Institute Film Festival Library, Bristol
2017 South Asian International Documentary Film Festival, Seattle
2016 Society for Visual Anthropology Film and Media Festival
2016 Viscult Festival of Visual Culture, Finland
2016 International Visual Sociology Association (IVSA) Meetings, Norway
2016 Open Frame Film Festival, New Delhi
Doordarshan (Indian National TV) - Spring 2017
“… an illuminating and poignant documentary about the desires that drive emigration from India, as well as the social and emotional fallout for those left behind. A must-see for anyone interested in contemporary global migration.” - Richard Fung (Video Artist, Theorist and Professor of Media Studies, OCAD University).
My name is Harjant Gill and I am a DC based anthropologist and filmmaker. I was born and grew up in Punjab (India) where this film (Sent Away Boys) is set.
Sent Away Boys tells the story of how families and communities in very rural and remote parts of the world are transformed by globalization and transnational migration. With the gradual collapse of Punjab’s agricultural sector, most Punjabi men no longer see a secure future here. The desire to escape India, in search of somewhere better, is now an aspiration shared by most. This film tells the story of what happens to villages and households in the absence of men. It’s the story of most families across Punjab today. It’s the story of my family!
Sent Away Boys is also timely given the current political rhetoric surrounding immigrants arriving in Europe and North America. Our politicians and new media often talk about immigrants as disembodied people, without histories and without a past. This film counters that false narrative by highlighting the lives their leave behind, and how their families and villages are transformed in their absence. As this film reveals, the decision to leave home behind implicates communities across the region.