Divided We Fall: Americans in the Aftermath

Rachel Lindsey

Valarie Kaur and Sharat Raju's 2008 documentary Divided We Fall: Americans in the Aftermath is, five years later, not a new film and many readers of this blog may have used it in teaching a variety of courses, from introductory surveys to advanced seminars. But it is film worth remembering. Divided We Fall follows Kaur and her cousin, Sonny, across the United States as they investigate violence against Sikhs in the aftermath of September 11, 2001 (here's the extensive companion website, including a number a teaching points). Combining original, amateur footage, with media coverage, and later interviews and narration, the documentary raises a number of questions pertinent to studies of religion in American history, religion in the media, religion and politics, and religion and race. I screen it both in my world religions courses and religion in American history courses, making use of the documentary's extensive bonus material to cater to a variety of different lectures and discussions. Many of my students have very little, if any, prior knowledge of Sikhs and there are segments in the film and additional footage that can be used effectively to start robust classroom discussions. But the film itself is an especially useful tool for helping to expose the effects of media representations of religion, including students' own reception of the "turban equals terrorist" message in the modern media market. What is perhaps the greatest benefit of using the film, however, is that students relate to it. Almost without exception, when we reflect on the semester towards the end of classes, students bring up the film as a keystone in their experience. The clip here is the beginning sequence to the documentary but I highly recommend the entire film.

What are your favorite teaching films?


David Stowe said…
John Sayles' Lone Star is a great one, as is Nair's Mississippi Masala. Control Room is good on media coverage of the Middle East. I still find there's a lot to talk about in Al Jolson's The Jazz Singer. And for religion in early America, Mary Silliman's War is first-rate if you can find it.

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