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The name Belmaya Nepali may not be familiar to you, but if you’ve been following the film festival scene over the last couple of years then chances are it’s one that’s etched in your mind.
That’s because I Am Belmaya – Nepali’s own account of her eventful life thus far – has been a hit on a global scale, and rightly so. It’s one of the biggest clichés, but this really is a story you couldn’t make up.
Even if you’re not a fan of documentary films, this is definitely one to stick with, particularly as it relates to issues pertinent the world over. Although this is a woman’s struggle within the repressive patriarchal system that exists in rural Nepal, it captures the essence of many issues that defined women in the past and those that persist today. At times it’s difficult to establish what the biggest discriminatory factor is: sex or class.
Being a single mum brings a unique set of problems, but even more so when you’re trying to forge a career in filmmaking. Being the youngest of six children in a low-caste family doesn’t help either, and so it becomes clear that the society into which she’s been born has held her back; not just in terms of outmoded views and rules, but also violence and aggression towards women. Having said this, Nepali feels she’s made some duff life choices in the past – again, something we can all relate to.
And so her wishes aren’t just for her career, but they also apply to all aspects of her life. Two people are instrumental in putting her on the right track for becoming a filmmaker: Sue Carpenter, who also happens to be director, writer and editor of this movie; and Nepalese filmmaking trainer Rajesh Gongaju.
The buzz surrounding the movie hasn’t just allowed Belmaya to realise her wildest dreams, but also, perhaps even more importantly, promote the messages she’s tried to convey to a worldwide audience. From domestic exposure at the Kathmandu International Mountain Film Festival, to international recognition at Toronto and, most notably, triumph at the UK Asian Film Festival.
This is not just a film, but also one that says ten times more than a feature twice its length. Nepali proves beyond doubt that whilst becoming a filmmaker is a hard slog, it’s there if you want it badly enough. I Am Belmaya goes on release in the UK on 15th October 2021.