An old couple sits in their barely lit room in silence. The bitterness of winter, and the memories of the past haunt the couple in an abandoned village in Jumla. Quietly, the woman carves a wooden mask. The husband grudgingly follows. Dadyaa: The Woodpeckers of Rotha opens the stillness of life that is moving for its audience. The director duo Pooja Gurung and Bibhusan Basnet present a fictitious world that is uncannily real in remote Nepal. Memory, relationship, and abandonment, as themes, make the movie universal.
The 12th Tasveer South Asian Film Festival has selected 11 films from Nepal to showcase the intricacies of life that exist full blown outside the narrow stereotype of a Himalayan nation-state.
The 7.8 magnitude earthquake of April 25, 2015 serves as a reminder of deep human emotions—loss, sorrow, pain, and grief—that bind people together. Ganesh Pandey reveals treasured moments of hope and relief in the aftermath of the earthquake in his documentary, Bhagyale Bachekaharu (those saved by fate). This documentary, also titled Nepal Earthquake: Heroes, Survivors and Miracles, interviews the rescuers, the survivors, and their families. It shows how fate and faith pulled Nepalis out of despair.
Raj Kumar Rai shows that the earthquake was an incomprehensible event for children. In his film, Heaven is Black, three children describe to each other what they have heard about heaven. They decide one of them would die, go to heaven, and return to describe what it really is like. In 107.2, Rajeela Shrestha, the director, follows Saroj Dhungana of Radio Melamchi, a community-based FM station in Dubachaur, Sindhupalchowk. This movie, based on real events, shows the resilience of Radio Melamchi, which struggled to survive while serving their community.
The other films in the festival show what life is like, when things fall in place, and normalcy resumes. Embarrassed by her prolapsed uterus, Maya hides her pain. From dawn to dusk, she tenaciously completes her chores fearing about the uncertainties that would befall her and her family. Sundare, Maya’s Husk Husband (Bhusko Logne), fails to be the husband she deserves. Ramakanta and Tulasi, on the other hand, display that love tramples differences of caste, and of desires in Saayad Ashok’s The Knot (Gatho).
In Brave Girl, Durga announces that the 13-year old Bhumika is brave for leaving her village. It is not easy to leave the comfort of home for the unfamiliar life in the city, Durga implies. As the film ends, director Erin Galey, however, leaves her audience wondering for how long Bhumika could truly be brave. In a northern Nepali village, Kshemi beats all odds and takes care of her younger brother and her mother after her father passes away. She sacrifices her desires for her family, one task at a time, like a Dying Candle.
Himalayan Refugee and The Shame depict life in Nepal in relation to the State. Who is free, and who is not? Who is recognized, and who is not? What happens when the State forgets you? Himalayan Refugee is a sobering documentary about Pakistani Ahmadi asylum seekers in Nepal who are waiting security clearance from the Nepali government so that they can be resettled according to United Nations High Commissioners for Refugees (UNHCR) procedures. The Shame is a fictional story of a man who seeks to protect his dignity. The man is born into a life of bonded labor (Kamaiya), and has repeatedly fallen victim to career politicians’ false hopes of granting land titles. His freedom has come at the cost of his livelihood. The film exposes his life of extreme poverty filled with nightmares and insults.
The opening night of the festival features the 2016 film, Bijuli Machine (Electricity Machine). This film focuses on the curiosity and perseverance of Nepali youth despite the limitations to living a good life in the capital city. The 15–18 hours of electricity cuts everyday in Kathmandu sets the stage for this film, making it relatable to its Nepali audience. In the movie, two teenage friends set out to develop, as the title suggests, an electricity machine that converts sound energy into electricity. This science based plot has Nepali film enthusiasts calling it the first Nepali sci-fi. Writer and director Navin Awal’s experiment of Bijuli Machine injects science and innovation as a viable subject in the Nepali film industry, and thus pushes the limits of what is possible.
This year’s Tasveer South Asia Film Festival presents stories—fictional and non-fictional, and short and long—from remote northern mountain villages to the hot southern plains to the bustling capital city of Nepal, and across the border to India, and from Pakistan.
For tickets and more information, visit tsaff.tasveer.org.