“As people drive past this compound on busy West Lane, south of Lodi, they may have little understanding of the people who gather beneath the temple’s golden domes.”
These words by former News-Sentinel publisher Marty Weybret served as the opening to the nearly-15-minute short documentary film he made, along with former editor Rich Hanner, about Lodi’s Sikh Temple — also known as the Deshmesh Darbar Gurdwara.
Weybret was invited to make the film by his longtime friend Jag Singh Batth, a Lodi High School graduate, farmer and retired state correctional employee who Weybret described as being proud of his Sikh faith and Punjabi heritage.
“He is one of those rare people who spans two cultures,” Weybret said.
“Marty, I’ve known him for close to 35 years,” Batth said. “He’s like a family member.”
Despite his years of experience in print journalism, Weybret was a newcomer to filmmaking. In the fall of 2016, he enrolled in a video and film production class at San Joaquin Delta College, which he enjoyed immensely.
“It was really a fun experience. I had a blast,” Weybret said. “This is journalism with a camera.”
Through talking with Batth and reading on his own, Weybret began to learn more about Sikhism, a monotheistic religion that began hundreds of years ago in India.
The Sikh faith was born in the 1400s, according to the documentary, during a time of conflict between Hindus and Muslims. The Sikh faith sought to create a “middle ground” between the two, emphasizing hard work, helping the poor — Sikh temples offer free vegetarian meals to anyone who is hungry — and living a moral life.
“(Sikhs) believe that creator and creation are one, that God is the universe,” Weybret said.
He also learned that Sikhs first came to the United States in the 1890s, and that the first Sikh temple in the U.S. was established in Stockton.
It took Weybret, a self-described beginner, roughly a year to produce the film, which he uploaded onto YouTube on March 26.
“The hardest thing, I’ve been told, is getting the sound right,” Weybret said. “Just as difficult is to get the lighting right.”
Despite minor issues with background noise and lighting, Weybret enjoyed the process, which he said brought him closer to his son, himself a documentary filmmaker.
“One of the joys I got out of this was talking shop with my young son,” Weybret said. “I now understand more about what he does for a living.”
Batth also enjoyed the short documentary, he said, as did other members and guests of the temple who watched it during a multicultural festival.
“From the depth of my heart, I want to thank Marty and Rich,” Batth said.