“My cousin is still waiting for a medical rescue,” said Bay Area resident and film festival organizer Nisha Thapa. Thapa’s cousin is stranded with a broken arm in a village three hours from Nepal’s capital city of Kathmandu, after the Apr. 25 earthquake that has killed over 5,000. Thapa says the last thing she heard was that other family members were going to use a motorbike to bring her cousin to a hospital in the city.
This year’s third annual Himalayan Film Festival on May 1 and 2 has a somber undertone, with the families of many Nepali diaspora significantly impacted by Nepal’s recent earthquake.
The goal of the festival is to screen films highlighting social injustices within the Himalayan region and mobilize communities, as Thapa says, to “translate compassion into action.” With five films over two days, the festival events will take place at 9th Street Independent Film Center in San Francisco.
The series opens with Sunakali, based in Nepal, which details the story of a women’s football team and society’s changing perception toward women through the sport. Saturday’s program will feature four films: The Refugees of Shangri-La on forgotten exiles in Bhutan, another story based in Nepal looking at a wind turbine called Tashi’s Turbine, a film about altruism by the name of Way of Life and When Hari Got Married, the story of a taxi driver’s arranged marriage in northern India.
For Thapa, films have played an important role in her life. Two months after watching director David Driver’s Way of Life, she ended up in a village working with those from the lowest socioeconomic status. “Films motivate and inspire us all,” she says.
Bringing together diaspora organizations in the U.S., organizers Amisha Hada and Thapa hope each community can adopt a school, or hospital, “We hope that Nepal doesn't turn into another Haiti,” Hada said.
Thapa plans to travel to Nepal with a team of three or four others to help prevent infectious diseases from spreading as well as working on reconstruction. The team is using the film festival as a platform to bring people who are working on relief efforts together to share information.
Thus far they have received overwhelming support from the Bay Area. “Folks are asking how they can contribute and people are taking time off, and working all night to help,” Thapa said. With an aim to provide sustained support the festival proceeds will go towards reconstruction efforts aiding local organizations through the Bay Area non-profit Sahayeta.