Gridlock on the Road to Shangri-La

April 11, 2013, 12:00 AM   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers

deepakrauniyar.jpg

For Nepali filmmaker Deepak Rauniyar, trips on the highway are no simple matter.

Since the end of the ten-year civil war in Nepal, which took more than 13,000 lives, an uneasy quasi-peace has reigned. But in spite of the presence of a "Comprehensive Peace Agreement," the conflict never really ended. It just shifted from military violence to civil disruptions, in the form of the "bandh."

"'Bandh' means shutdown," Rauniyar explains. "If a group, an organization or a party is 'unhappy' and wants to demand something from the government, the first thing they do is to shut down the major highways which connect the capital, or a road, or a city, or the whole country!"

The former journalist has been caught up in several bandhs. "One of these was 57 hours long with no food or water; I even witnessed two people being killed. When vehicles were allowed leave around midnight of the third day, they drove over the people sleeping in the road in a rush to escape."

That experience, and many other incidents like it, inspired his film, which follows the occupants of a bus that has been caught up in a bandh.

"I thought that a bus would be a great 'vehicle,' literally, for the film," he says, "because it's one of the few places where you get a cross-section of Nepali society. And as the onion is peeled for each character, you begin to see that people who are normally considered 'marginal' in the society actually are not necessarily that marginal, and that the 'normal' people, are not all that normal. That we're all struggling in our own ways. In that sense, I wanted to use differences as a way of helping people recognize what is common in each other, as a path for healing this very wounded society."

Rauniyar found his way into filmmaking from an unusual direction: journalism.

"In 2005, I was working as an editor in a national daily newspaper for the arts page," he explains. "I often had arguments with filmmakers who furiously called about the bad reviews their films got, as they normally were bad copies of Hindi or Korean films. These conversations often ended with them challenging me to make films myself. So I started to get interested in filmmaking.

His initial forays into short films were encouraging enough that he embarked on a full-length feature, and "Highway" is the result. "I want to contribute to creating a new independent movement in Nepali cinema, and to inspire other young filmmakers in my country."

What advice does he have for young filmmakers? Don't get too caught up in the technology. "Focus on the story that your heart is willing to tell!"

--Anne M. DiTeodoro and Lara Klaber

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Related Screenings:
04/11/13 @ 12:20 PM – Highway
04/12/13 @ 9:50 PM – Highway

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