Sikhs & ‘Ocean of Pearls;’ Russians & ‘My Perestroika’

‘Ocean of Pearls,’ a first-ever Sikh feature film debuts on DVD

In 2009, when this dramatic movie was touring film festivals and major cities across the U.S., ReadTheSpirit reviewed and highly recommended “Ocean of Pearls.”
In our full 2009 review of the movie, ReadTheSpirit Editor David Crumm wrote in part: “As a journalist who has covered cross-cultural issues in America for decades, I’ve seen many attempts by minority artists to create multimedia windows into their worlds. Sometimes, these firsts involve music festivals, documentary films, theatrical productions—even dance. But, I can’t recall a first feature film so stellar—so professionally polished and personally engaging—from start to finish.” That 2009 review link, above, also provides information on the film’s website and DVD options.

THIS WEEK, influential religion newswriter Bill Tammeus, based in Kansas City, also wrote about the film and its DVD release. Bill writes in part: Ocean of Pearls “looks as if it can teach us a lot about the intersection of faith and culture.”

PBS POV on Russian Cold War Legacy in ‘My Perestroika’

ReadTheSpirit highly recommends the new PBS POV documentary series—thoughtful, feature-length documentaries airing for free on the PBS network every week throughout the summer. They’re ideal for individual viewing and for group discussion as we pointed out in our overview of the POV season. Countless small groups are struggling to find good, reasonably priced discussion resources—and a world-class series delivered for free is a valuable gift to all of us.

TONIGHT (check local airtimes), My Perestroika debuts, taking us inside Russia for true stories about real families unlike anything Americans have ever seen from the former Soviet Union. Filmmaker Robin Hessman starts with a group of Russian children who came of age during the Cold War. We see these kids in old home movies, wearing their brightly colored Soviet youth uniforms. We learn that these kids—like American kids in an earlier era—grew up enjoying themselves at home only vaguely aware of a threatening world beyond their hometowns. As kids, these Russians thought of their homeland as embodying ideal family life and a bright future for growing children—and they thought of the U.S. as a dangerous place full of crime.

But this isn’t merely a journey into Cold War nostalgia. Most of the film focuses on the adult lives of these children who have taken many different pathways. The cutest little girl in class is now a divorced mother; one kid who was considered a bit of an outsider is now an independent musician trying to scrape out a living; and another kid who never stood out in school is suddenly successful as the owner of a high-end clothing store.

You’ll find lots of questions to discuss with friends! Such as: What were our American lives like in this same era? As children, what did we dream about—and what did we fear—in the larger world? How well were we able to predict what our own childhood friends would become later in life? What cultural factors shaped their lives? What cultural factors shaped our lives?

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Originally published at, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.

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