17-23 October 2014 #728

Movies 101

'Departures' and 'Phota' are two short films made by young Nepali filmmakers as a result of the 'Script to Screen' workshop.
Stéphane Huët

In September, the British Council organised ‘From Script to Screen’, a three-week film workshop with filmmakers Andrew Rajan and Subarna Thapa to train 17 young Nepalis in the art of movies, from writing the script to making the final cut.

Two short movies were collectively made as a result of this workshop and were screened at Theatre Village recently. The first movie Departures is the story of a couple who are waiting for the arrival of the dead body of their son, from, what we suppose is the Gulf region. The paradox is that the day it arrives coincides with the departure of their elder son Amrit. When his uncle points out the large number of Nepali men dying abroad, Amrit cries that he has no other choice. “How can I make money here?” he asks.

Every day, thousands of Nepali youngsters leave for overseas labour while up to four coffins are brought in, an otherwise war-time rate. Here the double tragedy happens to the same family and the movie plays brilliantly on the duality of arrival and departure. “Our boy comes today,” says the grieving father to his wife. We understand that this arrival also confirms his departure from life.

The work of the director of the photography in Departures deserves praise. He has captured the perfect light to highlight the mourning atmosphere that gradually rises throughout the film. The characters are interesting too, but the actors lack in rhythm and spontaneity. Of the four protagonists, only Gopal Aryal, who plays the brother of the dead son, is convincing in his role. There are also some disturbing failures in the sound recording and editing as some sound bites are coarsely superimposed.

The second movie made by the 17 students is Phota, Nepali slang for ‘photo’. As with Departures, the theme of death is predominant. It tells the story of Lalmani, a villager who wants to take a family picture with his dying father. To do so, he calls for a young boy who has a camera downtown. When Lalmani gets back home with the photographer, he finds his father has already passed away and his uncle forbids him to take a picture of the dead body.

For Phota, students have directed the well-known Rajkumar Pudasaini, perhaps using Subarna Thapa’s connections to entice the great actor into this project. But equally deserving of accolades is Jeevan Adhikary, a young actor studying at Oscar International College, who plays the photographer flawlessly. Adhikary, with his good looks and nuanced performance, heightens the contrast between himself and Lalmani as the fortunes of both take a turn for the worse.

The screenplay here is pretty simple but the movie is subtly directed. Unlike in Departures, the lighting in Phota is poor, especially for the outdoor shots. But the movies are somehow complementary, because Departures has what is lacking in Phota, and vice-versa.

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