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The Independent Critic

Mahira Kakkar, Andrew Pastides
James E. Duff
James E. Duff, Julia Morrison
73 Mins.

 "Hank and Asha" Plays 2013 Heartland Film Festival 
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For most of us, our "first love" typically involves someone in high school or college or the girl next door or someone else directly within our world.

For Hank (Andrew Pastides) and Asha (Mahira Kakkar), it's quite a bit different. Asha is an Indian woman studying in Prague, while Hank is a lonely New Yorker. The two connect and begin a most unusual video correspondence, and these two strangers seeking connectedness in a world that seems awfully connected but doesn't always feel that way manage to find each other and connect and become friends and maybe more.

Hank and Asha is the kind of film you love to find at a film festival, an unconventional film with an unconventional story that still manages to tap into the really rather conventional hopes and dreams we all have to find love, to feel hope, to discover who we are, and to still believe in the unbelievable and unreasonable and maybe even the impossible.

The film, which proved to be a fan favorite during the 2013 Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis, has picked up a slew of festival awards including Audience Awards at BendFilm Festival, Portland International Film Festival,  and SlamDance Film Festival along with other prizes at Brooklyn International Film Festival, Rhode Island International Film Festival, Woods Hole Film Festival, Napa Valley Film Festival, and Savannah Film and Video Festival among others.

While many filmmakers have tackled the long-distance relationship storyline, few have gotten it done as satisfyingly as first-time filmmaker James E. Duff, who wisely plays the film rather low-key with a natural, authentic humor that works throughout and stays as real as the storyline itself. The film is shot entirely through video messages, an approach that works so convincingly that I'll confess to having looked up the film just to make sure it wasn't actually a documentary.

Mahira Kakkar truly shines as Asha, a funny and warm and vulnerable and even kind of sad young woman whose journey feels very real and who makes you wish you were there with her in her moments. Andrew Pastides exudes a sort of Justin Long type aura, an average guy whom you simply can't help but like. Despite the fact that they don't share the screen, Pastides and Kakkar exhibit a tremendous chemistry that makes you follow along with this non-traditional journey.

Bianca Butti's lensing is simply stellar, embodying the film with a warmth and humanity whenever and wherever the film is set. It's no small task to convincingly create imagery that companions a long-distance relationship, but Butti's lensing seems to progress and regress right along with our central characters.

For more information on Hank and Asha, visit the film's website linked to in the credits.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic