Nepali Times
Through his own eyes



We are in a roadside cafe on the East-West Highway, tired and crumpled from nine hours folded into a hard bus seat. A young boy brings us cups of chiya. It is after midnight, he looks about 10 years old. Jay pulls out his camera and flicks on the record button, the boy scurries away. "You must ask for his permission first," I tell Jay.

"I want to make a film about child workers' rights in Nepal," he says. "This is one of the big problems we have here." He's right about that, and yesterday he wanted to make a film about the lack of roads in the mountain regions, and before that he wanted to make a film about the lack of facilities in rural schools. He wants to film everything and I believe that given the chance, he will.

Jay is 18, and we have just come back to Kathmandu from a trip to his home village in the far western district of Doti, where he has been filming the story of his life. Jay was 13 when he left the school playground one hot day in June five years ago. He joined the cultural front of the Maoist PLA, which had been performing at his school, and spent a year and a half underground before he was arrested.

"I had nothing to stay for here," he says in his film, looking around the dark one-room house he once shared with six younger sisters and his parents. "There is so much poverty, my school only goes up to grade seven and anyway I couldn't study, there are no lights, no books and no room."

Jay's story is not an unfamiliar one. Most of the estimated 6,000-9,000 children who joined the Maoists during the conflict have a similar story to tell. But Jay is the first to do so in a documentary shot by Nar Bahadur, but conceptualised, directed and edited by himself.

The Through Our Eyes video project is a collaboration between CWIN-Nepal and Roving Eye Film. It targets young people and children associated with the armed conflict. The participants are trained in digital video production and editing, and the entire process from conception to public screening is driven by the young people themselves. The result will be a series of short films that will be used as a development and awareness raising tool in Nepal. The films aim simply to relate the stories of young people caught up in conflict, without any political agenda.

"Through My Eyes is unique," says Sumnima Tuladhar of CWIN-Nepal, "It is a representation of conflict and reconciliation as portrayed by young people in their own voices, which are too often overshadowed by adult or expert views in Nepal."

Participatory video can be an empowering and cathartic experience. The young people have an opportunity to reflect on and re-evaluate their experiences, dispel any sense of stigma and shame, and help other young people with similar backgrounds.

Both Jay and Nar Bahadur have taken to the medium like fish to water. Jay, with his endless ideas for documentaries and Nar Bahadur, with his calm and controlled filming, display a professional awareness and talent for composition.

Back in CWIN's Kathmandu studio, they are discovering that the edit process is a long and difficult one "I want to keep everything," laughs Jay, "but I know I can't, it will be too long and too boring."

He points to the screen where Nar Bahadur's camera sweeps across the Doti village, showing a family in a sunny yard. A woman is lying down, a shawl draped over her head. "She was sick," he frowns, "but there is no medicine there. So many people die from common and treatable illnesses. I want to make a film about that."

I have lost count of the films he will make. Next time I meet him I give him a notebook and a pen. "Write them down," I tell him. "Write them all down and one day you can make them, one by one."

1. Tassia Kobylinska

We were all delighted to see our project covered in the Nepali Times this week ("Through His Own Eyes", P11 March 5-11 #492). However, the tag line to the article reads "A Former Child Soldier makes a film about himself and the conflict".  In fact in writing this article Tassia deliberatley avoided using the term "child soldier" which we believe labels the young people and stigmatises them, something we are aiming to challenge in making these films.  Come and see the first film by Jay and see for yourselves! Saturday April 17th, venue to be announced.

Tassia Kobylinska, Roving Eye Film and Sumnima Tuladhar, CWIN-Nepal

2. Victor Brazenski
I see no problem calling them "child soldier," I mean weren't they "used/brainwashed/indoctrinated" by so called liberators of poor people "Maoists?" I mean, what else would you call these people then?"

3. kc

Call them nepalese

4. Heidi Feldman

Do any of the films address the topic of child trafficking? Our project hopes to help young girls who may become victims of this terrible, and preventable, threat. If yes, please let me know.

Heidi Feldman

The Didi Project

5. Pam I
This weekend the Wood Green Film Festival in North London showed a lot of short films made by young people from across London. Some of my class from college have been involved with a local community project and their enthusiasm for the work filled the cinema in a way that doesn't fill the classroom...
Tassia, it would be great if you could upload some of this work so we can look at these parallel lives from this perspective, where the NHS looks after us all for free and the big road problem is the potholes from the winter frosts.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)