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Sent Away Boys

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.

  • Harjant Gill
    Director
    Mardistan/Macholand, Roots of Love, Milind Soman Made Me Gay
  • Rajiv Mehrotra
    Producer
  • Public Service Broadcasting Trust (PSBT)
    Producer
  • Radhika Chopra
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
    Documentary
  • Runtime:
    40 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    August 1, 2016
  • Production Budget:
    15,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    India
  • Country of Filming:
    India
  • Language:
    English, Hindi
  • Shooting Format:
    HD digital
  • Aspect Ratio:
    16:9
  • Film Color:
    Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
    No
  • Student Project:
    No
  • NY Indian Film Festival
    New York
    United States
    May 6, 2017
    New York Premiere
  • South Asian International Documentary Film Festival
    Seattle
    United States
    February 18, 2017
  • Pickurflick Indie Film Festival
    New Delhi
    India
    May 21, 2017
    Best Director - Documentary
  • Cinema Verite, Iran International Doc Film Festival
    Tehran
    Iran, Islamic Republic of
    November 5, 2017
  • Viscult Festival of Visual Culture
    Joensuu, Finland
    October 27, 2016
  • Displacements SVA/SCA Film Festival
    Baltimore
    United States
    April 21, 2018
    Festival Highlight
  • Royal Anthropological Institute (RAI) Film Festival
    Bristol
    United Kingdom
    March 29, 2017
  • Society For Visual Anthropology (SVA) Film Festival
    Minneapolis, MN
    November 16, 2016
  • Open Frame Film Festival
    New Delhi
    India
    September 16, 2016
Distribution Information
  • Public Service Broadcasting Trust (PSBT)
    Country: India
Director Biography - Harjant Gill

Harjant Gill is an assistant professor of anthropology at Towson University, Maryland. He received his PhD from American University. His research examines the intersections of masculinity, modernity, transnational migration and popular culture in India. Gill is also an award-winning filmmaker and has made several ethnographic films that have screened at film festivals, academic conferences and on television networks worldwide including BBC, Doordarshan (Indian National TV) and PBS. His film includes Roots of Love which looks at the changing significance of hair and turban among Sikh men in India and Mardistan (Macholand) which explores Indian manhood focusing on issues of sexual violence, son preference and homophobia. He is currently finishing his forthcoming film, Sent Away Boys focusing on how provincial communities are transformed by the exodus of young men giving up farming to seek a better future abroad, funded by Wenner-Gren Foundation and Woodrow Wilson Career Enhancement Fellowship. Gill is Point Foundation alum (2006-11). He has also served on the board of directors of Society for Visual Anthropology (SVA) and co-directed the SVA Film & Media Festival (2012-14).

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Director Statement

My name is Harjant S. 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.