From 28 January to 12 February 2010, the Himalaya Film and Cultural Festival celebrated the rich and varied cultures of the world’s mightiest mountain range with film, music, art and photography. Eleanor McKeown sums up the aims and achievements of this unique event.
The UK’s first Himalayan Film & Cultural Festival came to an end on Friday, after two weeks of screenings embracing a broad sweep of cinematic culture, from Afghanistan to Szechuan. A mixture of documentary, shorts and fiction film (complemented by musical acts and an art exhibition), the programme allowed audiences to experience many works that would not normally reach London cinemas.
A case in point was the feature film Kagbeni (2007), a Nepali adaptation of WW Jacobs’s 1902 short story ‘The Monkey’s Paw’. After the screening, I caught up with director Bhusan Dahal for a chat about the Nepali film industry. It was fascinating to talk with Dahal about the novelty of the industry in Nepal. The first Nepali film was made only 50 years ago and production has been inconsistent during the industry’s short history, interrupted by insurgency within the country. With Kagbeni, Dahal hoped to reignite a struggling industry and encourage others within Nepal to start making films again. He and his crew created a buzz around the film by employing unknown actors and using new technology. The film was the first ever Nepali feature to be shot on digital video: ‘We were criticised. A lot of people said digital cinema is not cinema. Film has to be on film. It has to be celluloid.’
This may sound strange to UK filmgoers, but surprises like this was what the Himalayan Film & Cultural Festival was all about. The cinema programming aimed to expose UK audiences to film industries from remote cultures that they might not otherwise engage with. This aim was nicely echoed in a special educational strand, which arranged video exchanges between children from Hackney schools and the Tibetan Children’s Village in the foothills of the Indian Himalaya. With lively and packed-out screenings, live musical performances and a specially-curated art exhibition, it is to be hoped that the festival goes from strength to strength in creating a dialogue between Himalayan cinema and London audiences in the years to come.
Electric Sheep liked Frozen (Shivajee Chandrabhushan)
A graceful, elegant film, both visually and thematically, Frozen is a slow-paced evocation of a rebellious young girl’s life with her father and brother in the remote Himalayan mountains. When one day the Army disrupts the desolate peace of their surroundings and erects a camp opposite their house in order to fight some vague terrorist enemy, it is the first sign that the family will be forced to change their way of life. Elliptical and subtly suggestive, infused with thoughtful spirituality, filled with memorable images, it is a deeply affecting, soulful film. VIRGINIE SELAVY