In 1915, two Sikh mill-workers, Dalip Singh and Naina Singh, were entrapped by undercover police in Vancouver and accused of sodomy. This experimental video stages scenes from their trail, told four times: first as a period drama, second as a documentary investigation of the case, third as a musical agitprop, and fourth, as a deconstruction of the actual court transcript.
Dalip and Naina were arrested one year after the infamous Komagata Maru incident, in which the Japanese owned ship and its 376 would-be immigrant passenger from British India, mostly Sikhs, were turned back after sitting in Vancouver harbour for two months without being allowed to land. The South Asian, all British subjects, had hoped to challenge a systemically racist regulation that required potential immigrants to undergo a “continuous journey” from their country of origin, am impossibility deliberately created for people from the subcontinent.
Between 1909 and 1929, an inordinate number of men tried from sodomy in Vancouver were Sikhs. Based on the 1915 case, Rex vs. Singh is a speculative exploration of the interplay between homophobia and racism in this little known chapter of Canadian history.
Rex vs. Singh was commissioned by the Queen History Project of Out on Screen, Vancouver Queer Film Festival.
Images courtesy of Vtape