White Sun with its finely wrought, persuasive performances is a rare piece of filmmaking
Since his debut feature Highway (2012), Deepak Rauniyar has worked quietly and steadily towards honing his craft, and now with the international premiere of White Sun four years on, all of his hard work, focus, and passion have paid off in the form of this second, pertinent, quiet but intensefilm about politics, social conscience, the aftermath of war, and above all, that rare currency that is hope.
Highway already showed indications of the kind of film-maker that Rauniyar aspired to be, and while it was not universally adored, personally, I thought that the film indicated the birth of a distinctive voice in Nepali cinema, one that strove towards emulating neo-realism, setting aside the theatricalities that continue with emerging film-makers today who try to portray aspects of what ails our society but lack the maturity and discipline to ring true, despite (usually) the best of intentions.
The finest accomplishment of White Sun - the story of two brothers who went separate ways during the conflict in Nepal with one joining the Maoist insurgents, and the other the police - is to bring the Nepali language, as it is really spoken colloquially, to the big screen without the cringe-worthy, histrionic cadences that have haunted former film productions.
The words that come out the mouths of the main characters, the brothers, Chandra (Dayahang Rai), Suraj (Rabindra Singh Baniya), and Durga (Asha Maya Magrati) the estranged wife of Chandra, are quietly spoken and deeply truthful to the experience of the everyman and woman who has suffered through the conflict and encounteredthe ongoing apathy of Kathmandu-centric politicians oblivious to the grievances of the people who both fought for and elected them. Current ongoing grotesque injustices are personified by Durga’s inability to get her illegitimate daughter Pooja (Sumi Malla) a citizenship card, without which she cannot go to school; a first step of the many in denying those Nepalis without a nagarikta any rights.
Example after example of the real struggles of the Nepali people are written into a carefully structured script that delicately touches on painful issues without assigning blame. As the film unfolds, we become deeply involved in the struggle that Chandra faces as he returns to his home village, confronted by the conundrum of how to carry his deceased father’s body to the river through rough, rocky steep terrain with only his hostile brother to help (the rest of the villagers are either too young or too old to carry such a burden), plagued by guilt at the sight of the the lovely, outspoken woman whom he abandoned during the war but stayed to take care of his ailing father, and followed around by a young orphaned boy, Badri (Amrit Pariyar) who thinks the world of him until he realises his role during the conflict.
White Sun or Seto Surya with its finely wrought, persuasive performances is a rare piece of filmmaking. May there be many more to come from this talented voice that speaks for so many of us.