Hank and Asha: Slamdance Review

As if it were necessary, here’s a film that proves that placing two characters in completely separate locations marks a shaky premise.

This indie dramedy finds two characters as far apart geographically as they are emotionally.

Park City -- Updating the epistolary love story to the Internet age, Slamdance Dramatic Competition feature Hank and Asha takes an unremarkable situation and renders it completely banal. Best suited to the interwebs that spawned its unfortunate premise, the film is tailor-made for VOD distribution after playing out its festival shelf life.

Part-time filmmaker and full-time reality show gofer Hank (Andrew Pastides) receives an email with a video message from Asha (Mahira Kakkar), an Indian student studying film in Prague. She expresses admiration for his documentary on ballroom dancing and his dubious creativity while gushing about her own artistic aspirations.  While a bit taken aback by Asha’s unsolicited missive, Hank records a video response on his webcam to send back to her.

It’s not long before they’re sharing regular installments about their unremarkable activities and thoughts on communication, love and creativity, even as their conversations grow more revealing. Somehow they never get around to actually video-chatting live on any of dozens of available platforms, however, apparently preferring the asynchronous exchange of recorded videos.

After Hank rashly invites her to meet him in Paris and Asha drops the bomb that she’s actually engaged to be wed in an arranged marriage, not even a phone call is exchanged on camera. With their nascent relationship in jeopardy, Asha and Hank are faced with finding a way forward, or maybe not.

Filmmaker James E. Duff seems to find the characters’ tedious exchanges of routine information and minor revelations fascinating, often shooting them in closeups, or in various exteriors and locations beyond the confines of their apartments, just to break up the boredom, apparently.

The problem is that neither is particularly interesting or has a great deal at stake, but both take an appreciable time reveling in the fairly mundane. Kakkar and Pastides both overact, maybe assuming that the webcam and handheld-device formats require extra emoting to get things across. Perhaps that approach will prove effective, since the film is ultimately most likely to be seen on small screens in any case.

Venue: Slamdance Film Festival, Dramatic Competition
Production company: Paper Chain Productions
Cast: Mahira Kakkar, Andrew Pastides, Bianca Butti, Ken Butler
Director: James E. Duff
Screenwriters: James E. Duff, Julia Morrison
Producers: James E. Duff, Julia Morrison
Director of photography: Bianca Butti
Production designers: Alex Chrysikos, Mimi Violette
Editor: Julia Morrison
Sales: Eastgate Pictures
No rating, 73 minutes