This film was watched as a part of the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF). Anu has its world premier on Sunday, May 14, 2023. You can see my interview with the director here!

If there is anything we vastly need more of, it is stories of non-white people in films. I fully believe that, and it is up to us as movie watchers to seek out these stories when they become available.

That was my driving factor for seeking out the film Anu. Anu is actually based on the book, Looking for Bapu, which came out in 2008. Written by an Indian-American woman, about a kid growing up in a mixed culture environment. And now, with Anu, telling the same story, is with Indian American director, Sudeshna Sen.

See? Exactly what I want, new perspectives, from people who aren’t like me, and non-male directors is only a plus at this point. Throughout these festival reviews, I will try my best to highlight and seek out films that aren’t the standard.

And if I don’t, Anu said she would glare at me all night and I don’t need that on my mind.

Anu (Diya Modi) is a preteen Indian American girl living in the Seattle region (hey, that is where I live. And where the festival is!) and has to deal with normal preteen girl issues. However, her life starts to change really early on when her grandfather, Bapu (Abhijeet Rane) passes away unexpectedly. With this, her life does begin to unravel a bit. She loved her Bapu, and she misses him, and how can she go on living without him?

From there though, she begins to see visions of him as a ghost! And it is definitely real. Anu wants to begin a quest to bring him back to life as a reincarnation of Siddhartha. But before that can happen, she has to go on a spiritual journey…in her own neighborhood and school. She has to become holy. Whether it is fasting, giving fortunes, or changing her style, she knows she needs to be able to bring him back, that is the only solution left in her life.

Also starring Lowell Deo, Pratik P. Shah, Tanvee Kale, Hudson Bruener, and Eden Campbell.

Clearly a walk to remember. Oh, no, different movie.

Anu is a classic coming of age story, or at least, a coming of age story, where culturally the way the character acts and interacts with her surroundings makes it more unique than the standard film of this variety. First I want to talk about the main actress, Diya Modi. This is her first feature length film where she has a major role and she knocks it out of the park. It is arguably my favorite aspect of the film. Her character has flaws and makes mistakes and acts like a girl that age, and is not some “perfect kid” learning to deal with death. She is a regular kid, learning to deal with death, through the good and bad reactions one might go through based on what they were taught.

Rane as Bapu was also delightful, and I wish he had more screentime. (This is arguably the plot of the film as well, getting him more screen time).

And although it is easy to remember the things that Anu did in the film in order to complete her spiritual journey, I will acknowledge I don’t remember much more of the film. It was great to see local sights and sounds, and just hear a character saying “Ballard” (a neighborhood of Seattle), but I don’t think the other supporting characters added enough for the full film. Her parents, her friends, it all becomes a little bit of a blur.

Anu is certainly not close to being a bad film; it was certainly a unique and interesting film! It is just also one where I was hoping for a bigger character catharsis and cast to help elevate it into bigger and better levels. It also gave me enough interest to seek out the book the film is based on, even if it is meant of elementary/middle school aged students.  I hope that the lead continues her acting career, not just for diversity sake, but because she handled the lead role so well.

2 out of 4.