Nepali Times
Mountains and movies


We've all heard about Caravan. And revelled in its successful run around the world. But the first Kathmandu International Mountain Film Festival is here to show us just how diverse films on mountains can be. From 1-4 December, the Festival will screen 49 films from 20 countries.

The festival received 102 entries, and finally picked three features, two docu-dramas and 44 documentaries. The geographic range of the films is far wider than the count indicates. Their subjects are as diverse as climbing and other extreme adventures, religion, music, tourism, natural splendour, development, hunting and fishing, and cross-cultural encounters of all manner, including one with a yeti.
The non-competitive Festival is organised by the Patan-based Himal Association with support from Eco-Himal, an Austrian organisation working in the Himalaya. Festival director Ramyata Limbu says, "The diversity of the films reflects the life and times of mountain peoples and places."

The opening film is Chickenshit and Ash: A Visit to Paradise. Austrian director Karl Prossliner records two Gurung men from Nepal's Dolakha district exploring Vienna, and meditates on the sudden alienness of the western world. Culture shock of a different sort is the subject of the French film Yeti, le cri de l'homme des neises (Yeti: The Call of the Snowman), filmed in the Langtang Valley. Tengui, a village doctor, falls into a crevasse while gathering medicinal plants in the high Himalaya. An enormous hairy arm lifts him out and that is the beginning of a beautiful friendship between the Sherpa and what turns out to be a Yeti.

A number of films reflect on the changes mountain regions have seen in the 20th century, including Nepal's Mukundo (Mask of Desire) in which director Tsering Rhitar Sherpa explores the delicate relationship between the mystical and the modern. A family is devastated after the death of its son and turns to a revered medium, Gita. Gita, who is going through her own crisis of faith, cannot help them. Less disturbing, perhaps, is Vision Man from Sweden, which profiles an 87-year-old Inuit hunter, Avike, who can no longer pursue walruses like he used to. Although he lives in a prefabricated cabin and sees his culture being eroded and his language dying out, Avike still has a wicked sense of humour. Argentina's Agony of an Ethnos documents a school teacher's attempt to help people in a remote mountain village survive without having to migrate elsewhere.

The Festival has enough adrenalin-charged and visually stunning films to show that intensity, like mountain encounters, comes in many different forms. South African Oceans of Fear follows lunatic climber Andy de Klerk's free climb up a rock wall and base jump off the wall. Italian Foleo Quilici explores the mountains, valleys, flora and fauna of the eastern Alps and inspires climbers to find adventure in Alps-The Eastern Range: The Julian, The Carnic. Yes, there are Everest films, three of them, in fact. Everest-The Death Zone has David Breashears, who made the IMAX film in 1996, go back to the Death Zone, the area above 26,000 feet, to undergo a battery of scientific tests to investigate the effect of high altitude on body and mind.

The biggest names at the festival are undoubtedly Caravan and the American Genghis Blues, which won at the Sundance Festival last year and was a major art-house hit in the US. Roko and Adrian Belic's film follows the friendship between a blind African-American blues musician from San Francisco and a group of the famous 'throat singers' in Tuva, Mongolia.

Although the Festival is non-competitive, viewers will be asked to judge each film they see, and the votes will determine the winner of the Viewers' Choice award. Films will be screened all day and there will also be discussions, guest-lectures and presentations. The sheer diversity of subjects and genres is sure to provoke great conversations for weeks after, and have Kathmandu abuzz. Keep your calendar free from 1-4 December. There are movies to watch.

Tickets and schedules will be available starting 26 November at Himal Association (542544), Patan Dhoka; Saraswati Book Centre (521599), Pulchowk; Mandala Book Point (227711), Kantipath; Map House (266060), Thamel; Suwal Music and Videos (421522), Lazimpat; and the Russian Cultural Centre (415453), Kamal Pokhari.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)