Shine Global Boards Live-Action Short Film Anuja

Anuja to Have its World Premiere at Oscar-Qualifying deadCenter Film Festival

Los Angeles, CA | Delhi, IndiaShine Global is pleased to announce we have boarded our first live-action fiction project, Anuja. The short film will have its World Premiere at the Oscar-qualifying 24th annual deadCenter Film Festival, from June 6 to 9, 2024.

Anuja is the brainchild of the husband and wife team of Adam J. Graves and Suchitra Mattai (Cycle Vérité). With Graves directing and Mattai producing, Anuja tells the story of an exceptionally bright 9-year-old orphan, Anuja (Sajda Pathan), who works with her 17-year-old sister Palak (Ananya Shanbhag) at a back-alley garment factory in Delhi, India. When a teacher shows up at the factory, promising Anuja the rare chance to attend an elite boarding school, Anuja finds herself facing external hurdles and inner conflict.

The film was developed in association with the India-based non-profit, Salaam Baalak Trust (SBT), founded by Dr. Praveen Nair. After her daughter Mira Nair’s film Salaam Bombay! exposed the harsh conditions of children living on the streets, Dr. Nair was motivated to make a difference in the lives of street and working children in Delhi.

Lead actress Pathan resides in an SBT home that provides shelter and education for girls formerly living on the street and brings her personal experience and passion for acting to the role.  “Sajda is a perfect example of how, given an opportunity, most children can shine and reach unimaginable heights,” said Devika Sharma of Salaam Baalak Trust.  

The non-profit Shine Global improves the lives of children by telling powerful stories that raise awareness, promote action, and inspire change. Founded in 2005 by husband and wife Albie Hecht and Susan MacLaury, their films include the Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning War/Dance (2007) and the Oscar-winning short documentary Inocente (2012). 

“We are proud to join Anuja as Shine Global’s first foray into fiction film,” said MacLaury, Shine Global’s co-founder and Executive Director. “The themes of child labor and girl’s education are compellingly told through Graves’s and Mattai’s beautiful storytelling and the exceptional acting of Pathan, drawing from her personal experiences.”

Director Graves is a philosopher-turned-filmmaker, with an academic background in South Asia Studies and extensive experience working with non-profit organizations throughout India. “One in ten children are subject to child labor,” noted Graves. “We knew there was an important story here that needed to be told.  But we also wanted to capture the magic and mischievousness of childhood itself […] At its heart, this is a film about the love between two sisters.” 

Producer Mattai is a multidisciplinary artist of South Asian descent whose work celebrates the power of women and explores her ancestors’ history as indentured laborers who were brought by the British colonialists to work the fields in Guyana. “It is disquieting to think that forced labor is not a thing of the past, but rather a living present for over 160 million children around the world, who, like Anuja, have to sacrifice their education and hope for a better future just to survive,” said Mattai.

Executive Director of deadCenter Film Festival, Cacky Poarch said, “We are honored to be hosting Anuja’s world premiere at this year’s deadCenter Film Festival.  A portrait of the strength, imagination, and love between two sisters, Anuja speaks to the global scope of our festival and our core mission of inspiring, promoting, and celebrating creativity and community through film.  We can’t wait to share Anuja’s journey with our OKC [Oklahoma City] audiences.”

Rounding out the core team are Aaron Kopp (Saving Face, Liyana, Hunting Ground) and Krushan Naik (Resurgence) who serve as producers on the film. Other producers include Michael Graves, Ksheetij Saini and Alexandra Blaney (Creative Director, Shine Global).  

“This story took shape in collaboration with the community,” Kopp said, “and it recognizes the vitality and ingenuity of two young women who, like so many kids around the world, face near-impossible odds.” 

“It has been a pleasure collaborating with such talented and sensitive storytellers,” Naik said. “Adam and Suchitra have crafted an entertaining and impactful tale.” 

Along with first time actors Pathan and Shanbhag, the film also features popular award-winning Indian television actor, Nagesh Bhonsle, best known internationally for his supporting role as police deputy commissioner, “Vam” in Hotel Mumbai starring Dev Patel. 


deadCenter Film Festival
Sat, Jun 8th, 8:30 PM @ Harkins Bricktown Auditorium 14
Sun, Jun 9th, 11:15 AM @ Harkins Bricktown Auditorium 13

Follow Anuja on Instagram: @graves_films

About Shine Global

Shine Global is a non-profit media company that improves the lives of children by telling powerful stories to raise awareness, promote action, and inspire change. We produce inspiring films and compelling content about underserved children. Through tailored distribution and outreach, we connect with our audiences in communities, classrooms, museums, and on Capitol Hill as part of a powerful engagement campaign to encourage social change.

Since our founding in 2005, Shine Global films have won more than 100 major awards, including an Academy Award® for Best Documentary Short Subject for Inocente and an Academy Award®-nomination and two Emmys® for War/Dance. Recent films include the documentary-animation hybrid Liyana, the hit documentary The Eagle Huntress, Through Our Eyes: Homefront which is available on HBOMax, and the Ariel Award winner Home Is Somewhere Else, which is currently in festivals.


This annual event recognizes and celebrates the films and filmmakers that highlight the resilience and strength of children in the face of adversity. The awards are open to films of any genre that showcase children overcoming challenges, such as poverty, violence, illness, and discrimination, and demonstrate their resilience, courage, and determination.