Nepali Short Films – Views From The Top of The World
Imbued with a meditative quality, these intensely personal short films paint a human portrait to the Land of Mountains.
Straddling an important political boundary between the two largest (by population) countries of the world, Nepal is known best for its famous peaks and more infamously, their devastating earthquakes. Yet somehow this resilient nation has always managed to weather through crises after crises, its society and culture rebounding from these natural setbacks with a good measure of understanding and faith.
Nowhere is this more prevalent than the closing short in this year’s special focus on Nepali short films. Scheduled to shoot just 10 days before the June 2015 earthquake struck, Chandra is a moving testament to the unexpected destruction in the capital. Yet the titular protagonist chooses to see beauty amongst the rubble, while his grandfather tries to protect the innocent child from the despair of the community.
The grandfather need not have bothered. Through the lens of Nepalese filmmakers like Sushan Prajapati; Min Bahadur Bham among others, even audiences from the concrete jungle of Singapore would discover that qualities of Nepalese humanity supersedes its natural splendour. Their films The Shame and The Flute pit social institutions of arranged matrimony and labour unions against their respective protagonists, and their inherently optimistic natures threaten to crumble in the face of a cycle determined to lock them into an oppressive status quo. Hence, the juxtaposition of the protagonists’ turmoil is akin to the dichotomy in their physical environment – harsh yet elusively provident.
But it is Year Of The Bird, by Buddhist monk-turned-director Shenang Gyamjo Tamang, that draws closest to Nepal’s beating heart. Although 10% to 11% of Nepal’s population are practising Buddhists, the dominant Hindu practitioners in the mountainous regions have absorbed so much Buddhist tenets that both religions share deities and temples. It is in this landscape that we witness the touching tale of a jaded elder monk seeking solitude, forced to mentor a younger protege bitter with life after losing his mother. Tamang shoots with a serenity and observational wisdom that comparisons to style will not be far from the late Iranian master Abbas Kiarostami, another great observer of life on film.
This year, the Locarno International Film Festival spotlighted Nepali works at their Open Doors section. In addition, Nepalese filmmaker Min Bahadur Bham’s feature The Black Hen won the Critics Week Prize at the Venice Film Festival and was chosen as Nepal’s foreign language Oscar submission. With this same director of The Black Hen in attendance and presenting his earlier short film The Flute this year at SGIFF, the Nepali Short Films showcase is one of those rare opportunities to examine a nation’s singular movement of filmmaking that promises a nourishing emotional and spiritual experience for all whom may have the privilege to attend.
The Nepali Short Films: Post-Conflict Cinema programme screens on Saturday, 26 November 2016, 2.00pm at National Gallery Singapore. Duration: 83min. BUY TICKETS.