For more than 1,350 families across Nepal, the war never ended. Every day is a painful wait for the one piece of news they have waited years for: the whereabouts of missing relatives, even if it is a confirmation that they are dead.
In his documentary, Shadows of Hope, director Mohan Mainali gives voice to the forgotten relatives of those disappeared during the conflict. Both sides in the war are now in ruling circles and are preoccupied with politics, society wants to move on, and friends and neighbours can't offer more than sympathy. In fact the suffering of the families of the disappeared has been deliberately ignored so that the peace process won't suffer. The state expects the families to accept relief aid of Rs 100,000 and stop searching for answers that would be embarrassing for those responsible on both sides.
The relatives interviewed in Shadows of Hope want peace of mind much more than justice or retribution. They want answers about the fate of their loved ones so they can move on. A little state support to rebuild their lives, if possible, would be appreciated.
Mainali could have easily manipulated the six profiled families to present angry and emotional testimonials, or slant it politically as many other film-makers have done. But he keeps himself in the background, allows the families to speak and lets the message come out in poignant words of bereavement, longing and loss. This is a subtle, but powerful, documentary that brings back the horrors of our brutal conflictand reminds us that the legacy of the war will be with us for a long time to come.
Says Mainali: "We have often heard about the victims of war, but in the film we have tried to find out what it is that their relatives now need the most. It is their voice, the voice of the families of the victims."
At the end of the 21-minute film produced by ICRC, Mainali zooms in on a father as he takes out from his wallet a faded photograph of his missing son. Ten years after his 14-year-old went missing, he is still trying to come to terms with his loss. His words dissolve in a flood of tears: "How can I ever forget?"
Shadows of Hope, directed by Mohan Mainali, is being launched officially by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on 6 August.