East Indians in the American West. An often-not-mentioned story of belonging.

Project type: Fiction Short
Project status: Post Production
Director: Molly Karna
Producer: Julia Elizabeth Evans

Instagram: @truckstopfilm
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A restless young immigrant, working at an isolated Punjabi truckstop in the California desert, must decide whether she truly wants out.


Jasleen is a restless 22-year-old, working in the short-staffed kitchen of a desert truckstop. Mindlessly, she chops, stirs, cleans. On this day, she burns herself. When Sunny’s eighteen-wheeler pulls up, Jasleen makes sure his offer to drive her to New York still stands. The two are good friends — both from the same area of Punjab, India, both looking for opportunity beyond Central California.

The next day, the truckstop’s manager Indu hires a local named Brittany who is the same age as Jasleen. Jasleen’s aunt, Maasi, watches Brittany struggle to make roti and laments that Indu should’ve waited to hire someone Punjabi. Guilty that Maasi doesn’t know her plans to leave, Jasleen suggests Maasi keep an open mind. That night, Jasleen packs up her clothes, documents, cash. But, her cash isn’t the full amount she needs, and when she reveals her plan to Maasi in order to ask for extra, Maasi refuses and accuses her niece of abandoning the family they support in India.

At work the next day, an angry customer shoves hot food on Jasleen. Brittany intervenes and takes Jasleen to her favorite spot in town: an abandoned waterpark. Perched atop a graffitted waterslide, Jasleen asks Brittany why she’s stuck in this town. Brittany confides – she supports her mother. Jasleen asks why she doesn’t do that somewhere better; Brittany explains that she did — but elsewhere was never any better. When Jasleen returns home, Maasi apologizes for being harsh to Jasleen.

The next morning, Jasleen discovers Maasi has left her cash out. At the truckstop, Jasleen gets in the truck with Sunny, handing him tea and paratha. When the truck pulls out, we see Jasleen has chosen to stay.

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Meet the Filmmakers

Molly Karna – Director

Molly Karna is an Indian-American writer and director based in Los Angeles who is currently completing her third year in the M.F.A. in Film and Television Production at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. Molly’s time at SCA has led to the production of multiple short films, including Big and Small, a hybrid fiction-nonfiction short experimental film, and Demi, which helped her earn a USC Lambda Scholarship. Prior to USC, Molly worked in the film industries of both New York City and Mumbai. In 2018, she directed Arrangement, a short about the complicated romance between an Indian-American woman and a white woman, which premiered at the New York Indian Film Festival in 2018 and won Best Debut Short Film Award at the Cincinnati Indian Film Festival. Aside from directing, Molly also served as a staff writer for the TV Asia news-comedy show Samachari News and helped produce projects including Surina and Mel and the Hindi film, Chef. Prior to her film career, Molly studied gentrification and maternal health in Mumbai as a Fulbright Scholar, and graduated with a Bachelors in Biomedical Engineering at Columbia University.

Julia Elizabeth Evans – Producer

Julia Elizabeth Evans is a storyteller and producer from the American South. She is currently pursuing her MFA in Film & TV Production at USC, where she studies screenwriting and producing. Over the past year, Julia worked directly under Gail Katz (Chair of USC Film & TV Production) and Tony Jonas (President of WBTV, 95-99) as Executive Producer in USC’s year-long TV production course, ‘Straight to Series.’ Julia has received over $70,000 in filmmaker/artist grants from various foundations, including The Andy Warhol Foundation, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, The New Orleans Film Society, among others. Her documentary, The Place to Be, about a corner store in Uptown New Orleans was an official selection of the 2018 New Orleans Film Festival (NOFF), 2019 Independent Film Festival Boston, and Jury Award Winner of the 2019 WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival. Her first narrative short film—a suspense-comedy, Your Pizza is Outside, screened at 2019 NOFF, 2020 Indie Grits, Flickfair 2021, among others. Being very honest and specific about “place” in storytelling, her work explores contemporary American identity. Prior to becoming a filmmaker, Julia worked at NPR and the NYTimes as a research assistant. Outside of television writing, set production, and regular naptimes, Julia studies the Japanese martial art of Aikido.

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