Surrey filmmaker’s ‘labour of love’ profiles people with ‘South Asian Stories’

"Reflections" documentary series seen on OMNI TV network across Canada

Surrey-based filmmaker and writer R. Paul Dhillon with actor Balinder Johal

Surrey-based filmmaker and writer R. Paul Dhillon with actor Balinder Johal

A Surrey filmmaker’s documentary series sheds light on some prominent B.C. people of South Asian descent.

R. Paul Dhillon worked for more than two years on “Reflections: South Asian Stories,” an eight-part series currently shown on the OMNI television network across Canada.

The one-hour docs showcase politicians, athletes, police officers, actors, activists, religious leaders and other people, many with connections to Surrey.

Dhillon began work on the project in 2012.

“It’s been a labour of love for me,” said Dhillon, who also works as journalist.

“It was all a challenge, a lot of work, but I really learned a lot.”

Politician Moe Sihota, actor Balinder Johal, wrestler Arjan Bhullar and businessman Tony Singh are among those profiled.

“I felt many of these individuals, some who rarely get the recognition, deserve the recognition for hard work and dedication to improving the social, cultural and political fabric of our communities and our nation,” explained Dhillon, who wrote, directed and produced the documentaries.

The filmmaker’s personal favourite episode in the series is “For the Love of My Mother Tongue: Keeping Punjabi Alive,” which will air this Saturday, Feb. 6 at 3 p.m.

“I wanted to explore the origins of the Punjabi language and also the Punjabi spoken here, orally and also in written form, in schools and elsewhere,” Dhillon said about the episode, subtitled in English.

(PICTURED: Police officer Kal Dosanjh, featured in “Reflections” series)

Other docs in the series were filmed with a mix of Punjabi and English words, he noted.

“My mother tongue is Punjabi, and that language is what the majority of South Asians speak here in Surrey” Dhillon said. “It’s an interesting, ongoing debate among people who speak the language, about how much they should encourage their kids to speak it. I wanted to explore that in the film.”

Punjabi versions of the “Reflections” docs will air at a later date, Dhillon said, and episodes done in English will be repeated on the OMNI station and its website throughout the year.

Other episodes in the series to be shown this month include “Keeping the Faith” (a look at moderate Sikh leader Bikramjit Singh Sandhar, Feb. 13), “Pricking the Conscience” (focusing on activist Harsha Walia, Feb. 20) and “The Personification of Integrity, Truth and Justice” (profiling police officer Kal Dosanjh, Feb. 27).

Dhillon heads MMM Films. This coming summer, the Surrey-based company will release a feature film, a set-in-B.C. romantic comedy called “The Fusion Generation.”

While working on the “Reflections” series, Dhillon said he was forced to take time off from his work as editor of The Link newspaper.

“When you do an eight-part doc series of one hour each, most filmmakers will usually work on one at a time but with this, I was working on eight of them at once, and I directed all of them,” Dhillon revealed.

“That was probably very ambitious, and everything was delayed by about six months, in terms of delivery of the (series). During the post-production work, finishing them, I had five or six different editors working simultaneously on the different docs. There is no way one editor could do all that, so we had to speed up post-production.”