Under the Turban

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
Under the Turban Movie Poster Image
Informative docu sheds light on oft-misunderstood religion.
  • NR
  • 2017
  • 89 minutes

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Positive messages

This documentary goes to great lengths to show the beliefs and practices of the Sikh religion and how it's interpreted by Sikhs around the world. It also explains the reasons for Sikh attire, and to address common misconceptions about the religion. 

Positive role models & representations

Many Sikhs are shown practicing their religion through the practice of selfless good deeds for others in their community. 


Members of a Sikh temple in Wisconsin talk openly of the morning when an armed white supremacist entered their temple and opened fire, killing six and wounding four others. News coverage of the incident is shown as well. 

Drinking, drugs & smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Under the Turban is a 2017 documentary about the Sikh religion. The documentary is shown through the point of view of a family seeking to answer a question posed by a 9-year-old girl in the family, "What does it mean to be Sikh?" This question leads the girl and her family around the world, visiting Sikhs in different cultures to see how they answer that question. The result is an edifying explanation of an often misunderstood (and even unknown for some) religion, the reasons for wearing turbans, the history and practice, and what it means to its adherents. Members of a Sikh temple in Wisconsin talk openly of the morning when an armed white supremacist entered their temple and opened fire, killing six and wounding four others. While those who are Sikh will find much to enjoy in this documentary, non-Sikh families will find the documentary especially informative. It may inspire them to discuss religion with kids, and the many similarities among different faiths.

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What's the story?

Two years ago, UNDER THE TURBAN director Satinder Garcha was asked, "Papa, what does it mean to be a Sikh?" by his daughter Zara. This question led the Garcha family around the world -- leaving their home in Singapore to visit Italy, Argentina, India, Canada, the UK, and the USA -- to find an answer to this question. Through these travels, they learn how the Sikh religion was a radical break from the caste system in India and preached equality, encouraged practitioners to be selfless, work hard, and do good deeds for those less fortunate. They meet Sikh fashionistas in the UK who make the turban look more chic and cool than it's often perceived in the world and in media. They meet a Sikh motorcycle gang in Canada. They also go to Oak Creek, Wisconsin and witness the indomitable resolve of those who worship there and survived the horrific mass shooting in 2012 in which a white supremacist opened fire and killed six people. The end result is a much clearer understanding, for the viewer as well as for the Garcha family, on what it means to be Sikh. 

Is it any good?

This documentary is a revealing look at the Sikh religion -- its practitioners, history, and beliefs. Using a child's simple question as a starting point, Under the Turban challenges the assumptions and misconceptions many hold toward one of the most misunderstood and relatively unknown major religions of the world. In each country where they travel, what emerges is how Sikhs both assimilate the culture in which they live while retaining their own identity. It has always been an egalitarian religion, from its inception in India as it rejected the caste system to its practices today of selflessness and helping those in one's community. 

It drags at times, and might not be the most interesting documentary to those who have little interest in religions of the world. Be that as it may, for those who are interested in other cultures and the similarities and differences between the religions of the world, Under the Turban offers a comprehensive presentation of the Sikh religion as a whole and for the individuals who adhere to it. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • How does Under the Turban convey information about the Sikh religion? 

  • How does the movie address misconceptions that some have of the religion? 

  • What did you learn by watching this documentary? 

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