The critically acclaimed Searching 4 Sandeep, a documentary by 28-year-old Australian filmmaker Poppy Stockell, screened last week at the NewFest Film Festival at Loews 34th Street Theater. The film has already snagged the 2007 Sydney Film Festival’s World Movies Channel Audience Award, the World of Women in Film Festival’s Best Documentary and Audience Awards and a nomination for the Independent Spirit Award. Searching 4 Sandeep documents Sydney-based Stockell’s own tentative exploration of Internet dating and the subsequent struggle she and her new partner face in overcoming their cultural and geographical differences.
Through the progression of her burgeoning relationship with Sandeep Virdi, a 31-year-old Indian-English woman, Stockell lays bare her own vulnerabilities on film. The process of finding love online is a stigmatized one, and Stockell’s tenderly personal style bespeaks her courage and honesty as a documentarian.
Although Virdi has only just begun to explore her lesbian identity, their connection is strong from the start. Later, the conflict between this connection and the rift it has caused within Virdi’s conservative Sikh family comes to the fore via heart-wrenching video journals about the pain their intolerance has caused her.
As the two main characters fight for their relationship, it seems ever more remarkable that they found each other online, in the absence of real physical contact. In fact, as the film progresses, the couple’s unconventional meeting fades into the background; they have proven (at least to each other) that such encounters can bear the weight of a fruitful relationship.
Searching 4 Sandeep will screen at LA’s Outfest (July 9–21) and at the Philadelphia International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival (July 10–21).