“We Strangers” by Anu Valia Debut SXSW Film Festival March 8, 2024 – Mar 16, 2024

We Strangers, an 80-minute film by Anu Valia premiered at the week-long South By Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival in Austin Texas on March 9, 2024, at the Stateside Theater, March 11, 2024, at Alamo Lamar 4, and March 15, 2024.

A decade in the making, the film features Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Ray Martin, a cleaner by profession, who in an instant of frustration, feeling as unnoticed as an unseen ghostly custodian invisible to her employers, spontaneously, and inaccurately, presents herself as a psychic who can speak with the dead. When she finds herself suddenly the center of focus, what can possibly go wrong, eventually does.

Critics who praise the film's vivid imagery, but fault it as being anti-climactic, may perhaps be missing its entire point. Blending in to be invisible day after day, going unnoticed, unrecognized, living out life in ever-predictable tedium, is anticlimactic at best.

Anu, an Indian American who has described herself as “an Indian from Indiana” is a Sikh as is her whole family. Her parents immigrated from India to Illinois where she and her brother were both born. Anu grew up spending time in both Indiana and Illinois. Behind the scenes, Anu comes in a very real way as a caring human being, very personable, and beautiful, not just outwardly, but from within.

Sikhnet talked to Anu about what her primary influences in filmmaking were and what prompted her to write the screenplay We Strangers

Sikhnet: Did you face challenges with assimilation or recognition that may have influenced you to create this story?

Anu: “The film explores that ineffable feeling of what assimilating can do to a person--learning to be a chameleon comes out of necessity. At times that can be a superpower, but my question is: what does it take from you?” 

Sikhnet: Did any particular experience prompt your interest in filmmaking?

Anu: “My father loved watching international films when he came to the US, and he showed our family movies from all different directors: Satyajit Ray, Ingmar Bergman, Akira Kurosawa, and I just soaked in all these different storytellers, which inevitably influenced what I felt films could do for people--they can change your life.” 

Sikhnet: Besides the obvious entertainment element, what message, moral, relevance etc. does the film have that might be of special appeal to Sikhnet readers?

Anu: “I try to think of this film as an experience--I hope the audience will connect to Ray's experience, and by doing so, reveal more about themselves.” 

Sikhnet: Does caste, race, gender, prejudice of any kind etc. play any part in the character's relationships with each other?

Anu: “Race, class, employer/employee distinctions are all very important in the film--they subtly shape each character's experience in the world and the characters' experiences with each other.”

Sikhnet: Where can the film be seen?

Anu: “The 80-minute length film just premiered at SXSW, and now will be traveling domestically at other festivals. We're currently looking for distribution.”


We Strangers promises to be a fun film with an entertaining plot that asks provocative questions it does not answer, prompting the observer to probe deeper for personal revelations.


Actor, Director, Screenwriter, Anu Valia, the Human Being Behind the Scenes

Anu Valia has a repertoire that includes acting, writing, and directing television series with various networks, 

The Afterparty – Apple TV, And Just Like That – HBO, A.P. Bio – NBC, At Home with Amy Sedaris – TruTV, Awkwafina is Nora from Queens – Comedy Central, Based on a True Story – Peacock, The Big Door Prize – Apple TV, First Wives Club – BET+, Generation – HBOMax, Interior Chinatown – FX, Hulu, Love Life – HBOMax, Love, Victor – Hulu, Mixed-ish – ABC, Never Have I Ever – Netflix, The Other Two – Comedy Central, Robbie – Comedy Central, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law – Disney+, Shrill – Hulu

Her short film, Lucia, Before and After, screened at more than 30 film festivals around the world winning the Jury Prize for US Fiction at the Sundance Film Festival. Of her various achievements, Anu considers being named Ambassador for the American Film Showcase her most prestigious.  

We Strangers
Written and Directed by Anu Valia
Starring – Kirby, Tina Lifford, Sarah Goldberg, Maria Dizzia, Kara Young, Hari Dhillon, Paul Adelstein, Mischa Reddy
Executive Producers – Caroline Kaplan, Tina Moran, Emily Ruhl, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Sarah Goldberg
Producers – Olivia Wingate, Alex Bach, Zach Spicer, Joy Jorgensen, Miranda Kahn
Cinematographer – Charlotte Hornsby
Editor – James Codoyannis
Music – Jay Wadley 
Sound Designer – Patrick Burgess
Production Designer – Amelia Steely
Principal Cast – Production Companies – Wingate Media, Mirmade, Killjoy Films

Run Time – 80 minutes
Language – English

Synopsis – “Rayelle Martin works as a commercial cleaner in Gary, Indiana. She's mischievous, playful, and skilled at adapting to her surroundings. One day while at work, Ray is approached by Dr. Neeraj Patel, a therapist who hires her to work as his housekeeper. Who’s going to say no to extra money? Not Ray.

Dr. Patel then presents her with another offer she can't refuse: a second job cleaning his mistress’s home. At first, Ray is just an observer, but then, after growing tired of being a witness, she impulsively tells one small lie: that she ‘can speak to the dead’. As Ray attempts to gain ownership over her own identity, she finds herself in an odd new position of power.” – “We Strangers”

Sukhmandir Kaur Khalsa

Sukhmandir Kaur Khalsa

Sukhmandir has written hundreds of articles on topics related to Sikhism and has co-written and and edited several books on the Gurmat teachings and Naam Simran meditation. 

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