[Pokhara, Nepal (Image © 2013, Shakti Pictures, all rights reserved)]
Timeless land of legends; of mythic creatures in unassailable mountain lairs; of simple, earth-bound music and ancient villages—appearing and disappearing in the forest’s fey evening mist; of impossibly immense, man-eating Himalayan spires surrounded by soul-crushing glaciers, dwarfing the very heavens around them. It is a fairytale realm of unrivaled gorgeousness where wishes, once uttered, come true.
It’s also a land of poverty; of political incompetence and civil unrest; of inadequate healthcare, stagnant opportunity, and myriad social inequities—stubbornly entrenched in day-to-day culture through tradition, poor education, and even willful, targeted maleficence.
In short, Nepal is a complex, developing principality struggling to find her evolutionary path; a nation like any other, yet overlaid with real-life thaumaturgies and crafty legerdemain. For anyone who spends much time here, ensorcellment is guaranteed. Nepal will not suffer your neutrality.
Regular readers and friends know only too well how profound is my enchantment to her wily charms, though I’m no naïf—eyes (usually) wide open to her deep, abiding flaws. Imagine my great pleasure, then, to have encountered another enchantee, another soul captured in Shangri-La’s thrall, yet fully aware of her manifold contradictions and imperfections.
And with that rambling, circuitous lead-in, allow me to introduce you to my delightful new friend, Miranda Morton Yap.
Like me, Miranda found herself unintentionally adopted by a No Bullshit, Real Deal Nepali village. In her case, that village is Jumla—the eponymous district capital, sitting just above 2500 meters in mid-western Nepal’s Tila Valley. Our meeting was typical for Pokhara: first a brief encounter—at my favorite bar, Silk Road, where she sat perched on a barstool studying devanagari from a diminutive notebook and sipping a cocktail; a few days later I ran into her again at Cosmic Brontosaurus, where I had stopped in to visit the world’s most irrepressible teacher of Nepali, the Good Samaritan’s Good Samaritan, Prem Kunwar.
Turns out Miranda is a documentary filmmaker, having become one as a result of her experiences in Jumla. Her film, Daughters of the Curved Moon, is currently in post-production and she was kind enough to share her trailer and ideas for (and about) the film with an annoying, transglobalist inquisitor. We had some fascinating, animated discussions about her intentions for the film in the context of our differing concerns, whiling away a handful of hours deconstructing the complex forces, internal and external, at play in rural Nepal. In DCM’s beautifully-shot, thirteen-minute trailer alone, one can easily discern the disconcertingly difficult interplay between tradition, technology, community, modernity, Women’s Rights, and (offstage, waiting in the wings) the juggernaut of neoliberal economic Imperialism. And that’s just a preliminary listing, from your favorite under-qualified, hamfisted and careless observer.
In any case, I hope you’ll take a look at the trailer, linked above, and read a bit about Miranda’s project at her production company’s website, shaktipictures.com.