Emotional Ordeal

The other day I had gone to my maid’s place. People who have worked at my place have practically seen me grow. And for some odd reasons they are always fond of me and vice versa. So this vacation when I got back home and when I met her she could not stop smiling for 5 mins continuously .I was wondering if there was something on my face or was I looking weird. Asking her she said it was really really nice seeing me after long. So was the same. It was nice getting back home after 1 year precisely 10 months this time.

So yea I was talking about my visit to her place. So after couple of days she just asked me if I would visit her room. I was pretty glad and wanted to find out where does she stay. So one day after her work we went to her room. I do travel in public transports Safa tempo but avoid travelling in micro bus. So me and her got onto the micro bus and there was just one seat so she offered me the seat. I happily squeezed in between 2 guys with smelly socks. I think I was sitting half in the air. When I looked at her she was standing with that smiling face. I really like this thing about her.

We got off the tempo and started walking towards her room. Her kids as soon as they saw her ran towards her. They were dressed very untidily with that innocent look on their face were asking their mom who I was. I had gotten sweets for them and pencils. She took me to her room where her sister in law was studying. It was a one bedroom hall kitchen all in one. The place was all covered with black smoke in the wall and was very dark .I could not believe my eyes when I saw the stove right next to her bed. And the closet was in front of her bed. When I asked her how many people stayed in this place. She said 4 adults with 2 kids and some guests are there mostly all the time. I was taken by surprise. I said how do you manage to take care of everything with just you and your husband earnings? and what about your savings?Where do u sleep?? As long as my daughters are studying and my daily expenditure keeps rolling its enough for me. I was so touched by her thought that she being a helper and her husband being a security guard in some hospital knows the importance of education. She knows how will it help her kids to grow of they have an education, their future being so bright. And about her sleep she said there are times that we sleep under the cot.

She offered me coffee and omlettes to eat which I had to refuse as I had just eaten my lunch. I gave the kids the sweets. The younger daughter took it outside and gave it to all her friends and neighbours. I kept looking at her and thought What a big heart the kid has?? She finished the whole packet. I kept quiet and after a few conversations she showed me the place around. She told me how they have to fight everyday for filling a bucket of water. And there are days when the water does not come at all. Whenever we go out of our rooms we lock our rooms and then go out. She said we has to keep her things secured or else theres no one to blame. She told me that whenever I happen to go abroad for my further studies I should call her there and she will start earning and her family can have a happy life ahead.

After half an hour I bid them goodbye and started walking towards the main road. She insisted on coming along and seeing her, her daughter also followed. I sat on the tempo and waved them. My eyes were watery and I felt so helpless. From far away I could see the smile on her face. That’s when I learnt LIFE DOES NOT COME THAT EASY TO EVERYONE!! AND WHOM IT COMES SO EASY DO NOT VALUE IT.

Telling Stories : Kesang Tseten

Film Southasia is an organization which has been supporting and showcasing Southasian documentaries since 1997. The Film Southasia festival is held every two years where the best documentaries of the region are screened. The eighth edition of the fest is to be held from 29th September to 2nd October 2011, here in Kathmandu. ‘Saving Dolma’ a documentary from Kesang Tseten is one of the 36 films participating in this year’s festival.

Kesang Tseten is a filmmaker based in Kathmandu and has been making documentaries for more than a decade now. The award winning writer and director has made documentaries like Saving Dolma, We Homes Chaps, In Search of the Riyal, We Corner People, Lepchas of Sikkim, Listen to the Wind, Frames of War and Machhendranath.


We Homes Chaps was featured in Film Southasia’2001 and now ‘Saving Dolma’ is     participating in Film Southasia’ 2011. As a nonfictional filmmaker what sort of challenges did you face over the last decade in this genre of filmmaking?

Kesang Tseten: So were, ‘In Search of the Riyal’ and ‘We Corner People’.  The biggest challenge is the filmmaking itself: how to find the right treatment for the particular subject that means knowing what and how to film, and how to edit, in the shaping of a film. The subject is different each time, with its own discussion, your own understanding and feelings about it, so how to find the film, to tell the story, is the challenge that returns each time.

Do you think that Film Southasia has succeeded in popularizing documentaries in our region?

Kesang Tseten: Definitely.  Both Film SouthAsia and Kimff, both spawned by Himal Association, as well as other smaller festivals have been significant and instrumental, in expanding the audience and taste for documentaries

Your films ‘In Search of the Riyal’ and Saving Dolma’ tells the stories of migrant workers in the Gulf.  Explain their influence upon you.

Kesang Tseten:  It is basically a David and Goliath story, where people ‘and poor people ‘go to the richer powerful country; they both need each other, but the rich one can play off the poor more than the other way around.   However, it is more complex as there are many shades of good guys and many shades of bad guys.  We can’t demonize ‘them’, the Arabs, or whatever, as a lot of problems are rooted here itself, caused by manpower agents, government policies, the wages here, one’s own people or even relatives.  Many have a hand, and so it is a challenge to show these realities accurately.  How to show these and not distort or misrepresent or be unfair to anyone; how not to be simplistic: So I’m influenced by peoples’ stories and experiences that point to a web of complexities that pervade the phenomenon of migrant workers. I guess empathy for these common people is the constant feeling while making these films.

What was the biggest challenge that you faced while making ‘Saving Dolma’? When did you first hear of Dolma? When you first met her did she readily agree to let you film her story?

Kesang Tseten:  The challenge was the difficulty of access, to Dolma, to the women working in Kuwait, as I couldn’t go there.  So I had to depend on footage that was gotten by other people, some of which was very good, but they too had limited access.    Also, how to tell a story using the single example of Dolma, sentenced to death and sitting in death row (subsequently, her sentence was commuted); how to tell such a complex and personal story without delving too deeply into the personal, and how to make it work so it conveys the general condition of women domestic workers.

Documentaries normally do not achieve commercial success. Have you ever thought of making mainstream commercial movies?

Kesang Tseten:  I would love commercial success but it’s not why I make documentaries. I make a livelihood, so I consider that good going, doing what I like and getting paid. I have thought of making a feature – let’s not say mainstream commercial films – but when I finish a documentary, the next one somehow seems to loom, so I continue. But even there I wouldn’t do it to get commercial success because it isn’t that easy, for one. I would do it to try a different form, but only if I had a story I absolutely liked. That aside, I don’t see documentary as an inferior form or something you do as a rite of passage before making a feature. That notion isn’t valid. It all depends on how well you do it, how satisfied you are rather than the idea that features are a higher form than documentary

How have you been managing the funds for your films?

Kesang Tseten:  I have been lucky to get funding regularly for all but one of my films. The Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation (SDC) has been very good, Helvetia’s, too, in funding the films and giving me a free hand to do it anyway I see fit. That kind of freedom is rare. I have also gotten grants from the The Jan Virjman Fund and the Pusan International Film Festival which are given on a competitive basis.

Has the audience of documentary films grown over the last 10 years? Do you use facebook or other social media to reach your audiences? How can they get access to your films?

Kesang Tseten: I’m sure the audience has grown, thanks to several film festivals (FSA, Kimff, some others and lots of opportunities for screenings, but it would be wonderful if television slotted documentaries on a regular basis, real documentaries, not reportage and news features. They do but we have to pay for it at present. Then it would reach a huge audience.  I don’t use social media all that much except to put up notices for screenings. I guess I’m not such a great marketer.

What inspired you to follow the lesser popular style of filmmaking? Are there other filmmakers who inspire you?

Kesang Tseten: I don’t know what is popular and what isn’t. I think about my subject, film in a way that I think is suitable, or often, I don’t have a plan but film as a way of research, and then see how to solve the puzzle, of finding the best vehicle for the material.  Most times, it’s the material that suggests the form.  There are lots of inspirational figures such as, these days, Frederick Wiseman, who makes long observational films about American institutions (Titticut Follies, Near Dying, High School), the Maysles (Salesman, Grey Garden), Erroll Morris (The Thin Blue Line, Gates of Heaven), Ross Mcelwey (Sherman’s March, Time Indefinite), and many more.

Three other films from Nepal have are being showcased in the upcoming festival. Have you watched those films? What is your opinion of those films?

Kesang Tseten:  I haven’t watched the other films from Nepal and don’t know about them.

What is the condition of independent filmmaking in Nepal? Do the independent filmmakers of Nepal meet and exchange ideas on a regular basis?

Kesang Tseten:  Independent means different things at different places.  If you mean, a film’s content and form that is produced free from sponsor’s interest, I think that is happening, to some extent but not a lot because there isn’t funding to support that, and also our capacities.  We tend to be influenced by the issues that have funding interest, which is to be expected as who can make a film out of his or her own pocket, but that’s the situation. That and the fact that we are fairly new to this kind of expression, or not as developed, given the lack of practice and experience.  We tend to know each other, filmmakers, that is, but there isn’t a thriving discussion or scene going on, I don’t think. I suppose it will happen when we are ready for it.


World Animal Day

MINE is a documentary about the essential bond between humans and animals, set against the backdrop of one of the worst disasters in modern U.S. history. This gripping, character-driven story follows New Orleans residents as they attempt the daunting task of trying to reunite with their pets who have been adopted by families all over the country, and chronicles the custody battles that arise when two families love the same pet. Who determines the fate of the animals ‘”and the people’” involved? A compelling meditation on race, class and the power of compassion, MINE examines how we treat animals as an extension of how we view and treat each other.

Exact time yet to be decided but it will be Oct 1 in the afternoon. People can check our website, email us, or call for details.

Silence Festival

This October, the people of Kathmandu are going to behold one of the biggest musical events in Nepal-ever. Silence Entertainment will once again be organising their annual show,  ‘Silence fest’, where bands from different countries and of different genres will share their music on the same stage. To be organised on Jawalakhel Football Grounds on October 15 this year, the event is excitedly being awaited by all heavy metal – hard rock fans of Kathmandu. And looking at the great lineup there is, a huge crowd is being expected at the show.

Much of the excitement follows the energy of the previous ‘Silence Fest’. The team organized the first of this event last year at the same venue to a huge success.  Different local and foreign bands performed including Enigmatik from Switzerland and Motherrocker’s Gang from Sweden.

But the bands this year are even larger, the highlight of the show being one of the most inspirational death metal bands-VADER! Yes, the polish death metal giants from the early 80’s will be coming to town, a dream come true for all death metal fans in Kathmandu, thanks to Silence Entertainment. The other bands that will be playing are also quite impresive, including Helmut, a metalcore band from Switzerland, Inner Guilt from Lebanon, Innercore from Hongkong and our own Antim Grahan, Hatebook and new Rock N’ Roll band Underside from Nepal.

With the highs of the first Silence Fest still fresh in our minds, expectations are that this year will not only be louder, but bigger, better and more memorable. The lights and sound setup, done by the organisers themselves, are hoped to be as good as last year too.