Nepali Times
Tales of the underclass

The sixth Kathmandu International Mountain Film Festival opened in Kathmandu on Thursday. Nepali Times spoke to the directors of two of the films:

Frank Senn, Hari Thapa and Otto C. Honegger
Sherpas - The true heroes of Mount Everest

What was your inspiration?
In 2003, we did an expedition on the north side of Mount Everest and decided to film what noone had filmed before - how hard the Sherpas worked.

You trained some Sherpas in camerawork as well.
We had two Sherpas and they shot the portions above the base camp. But we had six cameramen and at the end of the film, it was hard to know who did what.

What was the audience's reaction in Switzerland?
There was a huge discussion. The climbers were both happy and unhappy. Some Swiss climbers had come home saying, "I climbed Everest." Now people were asking them: "Who was your Sherpa?"

Did you have safety concerns during filming?
There is always a chance something will happen but we knew we had a strong, professional team.

What would improve a Sherpa mountaineer's life?
They should get internationally recognised degrees as mountain guides. They are good climbers, and with a degree, they would have better positions in the expeditions.

Kesang Tsetan
In search of the Riyal

Why did you make a film about migrant workers?

Everyone from a low-income background thinks about migrating, has migrated or knows someone who has migrated. Very little is known about the experience of these migrants except for those who make the headlines for the wrong reasons.

How hard was it for you to film in the Gulf countries?
It's difficult to get a visa let alone get permission to film in the Gulf. I had friends who sponsored my first visit to the UAE but refused to do it when we went to film. I couldn't get a visa to Dubai the second time, so the filming centres on Qatar.

Because of the presence of nearly 400,000 Nepalis in Qatar, you have said that it is colonised by Nepalis, but from the bottom up. What is their condition there?
An average worker with some skill does alright ? he returns home with savings. But it's still tough condition: long hours, extreme heat, stress and a lack of leisure. Many end up worse off than had they stayed in Nepal.

The film's protagonist, Dalbir, is swindled while attempting to go abroad the second time. Was he not aware of such dangers?
Dalbir is a mature guy, but he got swindled by a Nepali conman. So you can imagine the chances of the young folk fresh from the village.

What role should the government play on behalf of the migrant workers?
Given that workers' remittances add up to almost USD 3 billion, the government should make migration safer by regulating manpower agencies, posting labour attaches in the migrant destinations, and negotiating with foreign governments for better wages.

Cinematic heights - FROM ISSUE #479 (04 DEC 2009 - 10 DEC 2009)

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)