Close Ties to Home Country

LOGLINE

An immigrant dogwalker finds home in the hearts of the rich people’s dogs she dogsits.

SHORT SYNOPSIS

Millennial immigrant Akanksha waits for her sister’s visit from India (they haven’t seen each other in nine years!) Meanwhile, she’s dogsitting the fancy Frenchie of Instagram influencers India and Harry, who themselves are on a trip to India’s namesake.

LONG SYNOPSIS

Akanksha, a young immigrant (“originally from India but actually grew up in Saudi Arabia”) is dogsitting Timothee, the baby Frenchie of Instagram influencers India and Harry while they’re on a trip to India. Akanksha’s sister is scheduled to visit her soon—they haven’t seen each other in nine years. While she waits, Akanksha bonds with Timothee, enjoys the spoils of white money, has her friend Sophia over to engage in judgy hijinks, and muses over why she stays away from her home country.

  • Akanksha Cruczynski
    Director
    Natural Selection
  • Akanksha Cruczynski
    Writer
    Natural Selection
  • Felicia Ferrara
    Producer
    Don Johnson Is Not Your Man
  • Akanksha Cruczynski
    Key Cast
    "Akanksha"
    Natural Selection
  • Cassie Kramer
    Key Cast
    "India"
    Candyman
  • Simon Hedger
    Key Cast
    "Harry"
    Detroiters
  • Sophia Rafiqi
    Key Cast
    "Sophia"
    Girlhood
  • Project Type:
    Short, Student
  • Runtime:
    15 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    April 5, 2021
  • Production Budget:
    18,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
    English
  • Shooting Format:
    ARRI Alexa
  • Aspect Ratio:
    2.39:1
  • Film Color:
    Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
    Yes
  • Student Project:
    Yes - Columbia College Chicago
  • Student Academy Awards 2021 Official Finalist
    Los Angeles
    United States
    July 15, 2021
    Finalist
  • Telluride Film Festival
    Telluride
    United States
    September 4, 2021
  • BAFTA Student Awards 2021 Official Shortlist

    United States
    BAFTA Student Awards Official Shortlist
  • Aspen Shortsfest 2021
    Aspen, CO
    United States
    April 6, 2021
    World Premiere
    Audience Award / Cash prize of $1250
  • LA Shorts Fest
    Los Angeles
    United States
    July 9, 2021
    Los Angeles Premiere
    Official Selection
  • Heartland Indy Shorts
    Indianapolis
    United States
    July 22, 2021
    Home State Premiere
    Best Comedy / cash prize of $1000
  • Salute Your Shorts Film Fest
    Los Angeles
    United States
    August 20, 2021
    Best Comedy & Best Student Film
  • Walla Walla Movie Crush
    Walla Walla
    United States
    July 10, 2021
    Best Performance & Beast of the Crush
Director Biography - Akanksha Cruczynski

Akanksha Cruczynski* is a writer and filmmaker based in New York City. Originally from India and having grown up in Saudi Arabia, Akanksha moved to the States for college, following which she studied comedy at The Second City, iO Theater and Annoyance Theater in Chicago. She has made several short films including Close Ties to Home Country, her graduate thesis film, which is a finalist for the Student Academy Awards and was on the shortlist for the BAFTA Student Awards. The film won the Audience Award at Aspen Shortsfest and the Best Comedy Award at Indy Shorts International Film Festival, and has gone on to play at several other Academy Award-qualifying film festivals, including Telluride Film Festival. Akanksha is passionate about telling stories from underserved communities and using humor to guide them.

*Polish? No. In a teenage angsty act of defiance, when her parents divorced, 14-year-old Akanksha changed her last name to her favorite character's—Clementine Kruczynski in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. She did not know it was a Polish name or that that mattered.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

Six years ago, when my sister’s visitor visa to the US was denied, I felt numb. I hadn’t seen her since 2012, the last time I had visited India. (I haven’t been back since). I lashed out at my mother. “You didn’t do it right! These things are really complicated! You should have listened to me!” I wanted to punish her. I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t know who to be mad at. They were just trying to visit me.

It’s always easier to blame what we know—the facts at hand. Immigrants do this all the time. We carry around an urgency; we’ve worked really hard to get here and there’s a lot to lose. If you ready yourself with everything, if you don the right armor, you can convince yourself you have some semblance of control—over a visa officer’s mood that day, the fact that he got stuck in traffic that morning, the rhetoric he’s been exposed to since 9/11 and post 11/2016. You can think you’ve got this.

I had done things “the right way.” I came here on a full scholarship to attend a prestigious liberal arts college; I’d prepared well for my visa interview. I’d committed the right amount of anxiety to it. There’s a certain amount of anxiety you’ve got to have as an immigrant—anyone who doesn’t have the right mix is just not gonna make it in this country. I’ve seen them. I’ve seen them pack up and go home. I’d scoured through sample interview questions and had my young cousins mock interview me. When I nailed that visa interview, I felt like I had earned my entry to the United States of America: the greatest country in the whole damn world. I had earned that golden ticket. I felt like my mom and sister must not have done a good enough job.

Close Ties to Home Country is about the denial of my sister’s visa, denied under Immigration Clause Section 214(b): "inability to prove close ties to home country." Under Section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act: "any temporary visitor must prove Strong Family, Social & Economic Ties to their Home Country. Strong ties are powerful and irrefutable reasons that would force an applicant to return to their home country, such as:

Employment
Dependent family members
Properties
Income-generating businesses

My sister was 17 at the time. She had just graduated high school. She didn’t yet have a job, or any dependent family members, or properties, or income-generating businesses. She was just coming to visit me. It is not uncommon for immigration officials to deny the visa of one visiting family member, to give the rest of the family “a reason to go back.”

I had to make this film because I, like many other immigrants, am tired. I’m tired of the questions. I’m tired of the assumptions. I’m tired of having to explain, a hundred times over, often to the same people, often to my very best friends, why I can’t just “apply for citizenship.” While I can’t answer every question with this film (visa applications are often several hundred pages long), I’m hoping I can answer some, and that people will stop asking. The system is broken. Doing things “the right way” doesn’t matter if you’re not white.

This country was founded on immigrants. It’s a country that was stolen. Somewhere, that story got lost.

Most immigrants I know are deeply good people. We’ve got a patriotism for America that’s more complex and more expensive than you would think—we traded our own countries for this one. We love it fiercely. To tell our stories should be up to us. But we’re largely unrepresented on screen, because we’re not often given the chances to tell our stories. Who’s listening?

We try our best to blend in. We try hard not to stick out. Like good immigrants, we keep our heads down. We’ve got the anxiety.

Here is my anxiety. Here is my film.