In Wendy Bednarz’s feature debut, an Indian woman living in the Arabian Gulf embarks on a search for truth and accountability after her daughter is left to die on a school bus in the sweltering desert heat.
Ananda (Tannishtha Chatterjee) and Gagan (Amit Sial) emigrated to the Arabian Gulf from India in search of new opportunities and a better life for their family, which soon grew to include daughters Ravina and Anju. But their dreams are shattered when Anju, their youngest, dies after being forgotten on a school bus in the sweltering desert heat.
Devastated and literally clinging to her daughter’s ashes, Ananda launches into a desperate search for truth. She knows there is something being withheld. When the school returns with a customary offer of diyya — court-ordered blood money for a wrongful death — Ananda refuses it. She also refuses the excuses and condolences she is presented with, all too thin to ease the weight of her grief and the unravelling of her family. Despite Gagan and Ravina’s pleas, Ananda will not quit until her standard of accountability — not the school's — is met and Anju’s tormented soul is put to rest.
This rich and affecting feature debut from American writer-director Wendy Bednarz queries the raw complexities of cultural exchange without pleasantries, landing a deft social critique thick with emotional tension. Chatterjee (Brick Lane, TIFF ’07) channels a searing stoicism and ferocious resolve, giving a chilling lead performance, dynamically captured by cinematographer Sofian El Fani (Blue is the Warmest Color, TIFF ’13; Timbuktu, TIFF ’14). A sobering and resolute examination of the Gulf’s evolving cultural landscape, Yellow Bus imparts an unforgettable lesson in the power of a mother's determination against all odds.
Official Selection, 2023 Toronto International Film Festival