In an odd repeat of the Dubai International Film Festival last December, I happened to be in Kathmandu during their 2011 International Film Festival.
Though the venue and organisation definitely wasn’t on the same level as Dubai, the KIMFF was a great opportunity to learn a bit more about the mountains and cultures of this country that I’ve spent so much time exploring the natural wonder of.
I managed to see six films in the last two and a half days before leaving Kathmandu, all but one dealing in some with with the people in or ecology of the world’s high mountains. A bit about each below, in order of how much I enjoyed them:
Summer Pasture (Lynn True and Nelson Walker)
An honest look at the lives and love of a young Tibetan couple living as nomads in the cultural-but-not-political Tibet of China’s Sichuan province. Presentation, storytelling, and charismatic characters combined to make this an almost unimpeachable film.
6 stars out of 5.
Ma Khushi Chu (I Am Happy) (Abinash Bikram Shah)
A touching look at the search for happiness in life with creatively simple camerawork and storytelling. Very nicely presented and executed, with an emotionally engaging cast of local Kathmandu actors.
A Life Ascending (Stephen Grynberg)
Beautifully filmed documentary detailing the perils and privileges of the life of a high-altitude guide in the Canadian Rockies, with a focus on rebuilding after the avalanche death of a close friend.
Land of the Painted Mountains (Robert Morgenstern)
Despite a rough start with incomplete translating of the German narrator’s discussion, this film quickly picks up into a visually gorgeous documentary of city youth discovering undeveloped nature in a region of Canada in danger of development. It does a good job of making its point without getting into too much overt preachiness against development into which it could have so easily lapsed.
Out of the Darkness (Stefano Levi)
Documentary journey with Dr. Sanduk Ruit on his journey to cure cataract blindness in the developing world. Though the scenery is stunning and interspersed with lots of touching moments, the over-reliance on just a handful of camera techniques and occasional repetition of the same cliched “aren’t we doing so much good” theme brings the film down a little.
Lamaharu Anyolma (Lamas in Dilemma)
This should have been a really interesting film. The subject matter: declining acceptance of polyandry (think polygamy, but reversed) within traditional Tibetan-culture communities. Aside from the production looking and sounding like something I could have made on my digital camera, the filmmakers and in-house audience both seemed to treat the topic as an obvious joke rather than exploring part of an old and uncommon culture. This film, and a lot of the people who were in the auditorium to watch it, actually made me quite disappointed both in this crowd/film and a little in the Kathmandu Film Festival as a whole.
The Festival actually lasts for two more days, but I’m flying out of Nepal tomorrow so these six are all for me. Here’s hoping that wherever I happen to be next December, this string of film-related luck continues!