Thursday, June 5, 2008

“The Sari Soldiers”

Six Nepalese Women with Different Ideologies Find Common Ground Through Film!
Smita Magar

Kathmandu, December 22-These two strong women came together to film other six strong women‘s real life stories with different perspectives on the ongoing decade-long conflict in the country; on their reels.

A decade of bloody people’s war left Nepal with deep scars that no one knows when they will heal. These two strong women saw the extraordinary power hidden beneath the scars on six particular Nepalese women who struggled to overcome their loss and found the hope to fight on from different poles to reach the destinations they believed in.

These two strong women are Julie Bridgham and Ramyata Limbu; director/producer and co-producer of the documentary “The Sari Soldiers”. In 2005, during the time of the Maoist insurgency in Nepal, one, an American woman, the other, a 7 months pregnant Nepali woman took their chances and started filming the documentary. “It was very difficult and very challenging epecially after King Gyanendra’s coup on February 1st. We had no idea which direction the country was headed and also it was very difficult to physically reach some of the characters of our film,” said Julie Bridgham. “For Julie, being an American during those times was in some way dangerous because Maoists had their different way of looking at American citizens so we had to take considerable precautions,” Ramyata Limbu added.

The documentary observes six extraordinary women’s lives and their involvement in the decade-long conflict. The women include Devi Sunuwar, mother of a "disappeared" daughter Maina Sunuwar, a human rights attorney Mandira Sharma, an anti-Maoist village leader Krishna Shahi, a street protesting student activist & leader Ram Kumari Jhakri, a Royal Nepal Army officer Rajani K.C, and a Maoist People’s Liberation Army Brigadier Commissar Kamala Roka alias Kranti. It shows the role of women on all sides of the conflict as well as the greater political and human rights issues in the decade-long insurgency. It reveals their participation in major political events, exposes their victimization while showing the positive roles they played in transforming Nepal using bold steps to lead with their beliefs.

Though the Sari in the name is a metaphorical name for female-civilians, director Bridgham said “Each is a fascinating individual making significant impacts in the country, with her own perspective of looking at the conflict of the country. Each is to be celebrated as a person in herself, not in particular as a women.” While Limbu smilingly added that her life has been enriched by meeting those totally different, and yet so similar individuals, each with strong determination and each struggling through the conflict, it was a very wonderful experience for her to see the characters unfold through the different events.
Apart from the challenges they had to face while filming the documentary, Bridgman and Limbu shared another challenge when they showed their film to the six women together in the studio. “We were very nervous that day. We had brought all of them together in one place for the very first time. At first, there was hardly any communication between them, but then after seeing the documentary they talked about it with each other and interacted freely. The environment became more enjoyable then,” said Limbu remembering that memorable day.

After seeing the audience response in their two special screenings of the documentary in Nepal, the film makers are very excited. “It’s great to see people responding strongly to the film. We hope it will be shown the film. We hope it will be shown all over Nepal and result in discussion, dialogue and understanding between people with different views about the decade long conflict,” states Bridgham. She further added that they are hoping viewers will understand why these six women who hold different opinions are able to reach common understanding.

"The Sari Soldiers” delves into how women were increasingly involved in the conflict and for that, it is a captivating film. Each story touches the audience emotionally, changing their emotions with the changes of the story in the film. “The documentary is very powerful. Being able to combine each perspective and give full justice to each personality in the film is remarkable,” said one of the characters of the film, Ram Kumari Jhakri Magar said.

Photo courtesy: 1st & 2nd photos are provided by Julie Bridgham director/producer of the documentary “The Sari Soldiers”.