The annual and beloved Kathmandu International Mountain Film Festival (KIMFF)
is once again upon us bringing with it a slew of more than worthy short and feature length films to impatiently choose from. As usual with the array before us it is inevitable that we’ll see a few but miss a few regardless of our careful timing and planning. Clearly, also, it is impossible to review more than a few films in this column, but I encourage all of you to go to City Hall (Exhibition Road) and watch as many as you can in addition to the two gems that I have the privilege to write about here.
When Hari Got Married (14 December, 3pm) a charming documentary by Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam is set in Dharamsala and follows a hyper-articulate and charismatic taxi driver named Hari who is on the verge of getting married to a suitable Brahmin girl called Suman whom he has never seen. Trying to break out of the rigid traditions of his fairly rigorous family, Hari intrepidly manages to obtain Suman’s telephone number and establishes a relationship with her via phone, where he teases her, coaxes her to speak with him, and teaches her to say ‘I love you’ in English.
While all of this is engaging enough, it is the filmmakers’ patience in staying with Hari – day in and day out, learning about his life and interacting with his family that truly pay off in the viewing. We may all be familiar with the insularity that can come from our culture: its treatment of women, its assumption that women should and ought to be married off (at which point their home is with their husband), and other such shockingly outdated conventions – but seeing it play out in real life with real people is a thought-invoking pleasure that only a good documentary can bring to us.
When Hari Got Married
Documentaries can assume many forms. Much argument has been made for the cinèma verité aspect of it, where we are shown, as much as is possible, a ‘slice of life’. When Hari Got Married is a rather lovely example of this, a film which seems slight at first, but digs into the very way in which we lead our lives, observing minutely without judging, but made with such skill that we can’t help but to have questions.
Then there are the documentaries that are like mesmerising tone poems, made about philosophical subjects such as life, birth, and death which cannot be approached with the same kind of narrative structure that we have become accustomed to. Sky Burial (13 December, 1.30pm) a short documentary set in Mongolia and made by Tad Fettig follows the sacred and esoteric rituals performed by a monk who has carried the tradition of the Tibetan Sky Burial forward through generations. With gorgeous cinematography overlaid with Buddhist philosophy describing the nature of attachment and the freedom of the soul, the film is a meditative document of a ritual where the body is torn apart and made to be unrecognisable so that the soul cannot return to it
The films at KIMFF are as diverse as they come. I hope that you will view at least a few this week.
When Hari Got Married trailer