Friday, August 10, 2012

Katmandú, un espejo en el cielo / Kathmandu Lullaby

Katmandu - taivaan peili / Katmandu, himlens spegel. ES © 2011 Media Films / Levinver. P: Luis de Val, Larry Levene. D+SC: Icíar Bollaín - inspired by the autobiography Vicki Xerpa, una mestra a Katmandú (2002) by Victòria Subirana. DP: Antonio Riestra. PD: Laia Colet. Cost: Sonia Grande. Makeup: Karmele Soler. Hair: Sergio Pérez. M: Pascal Gaigne. S: Pelayo Gutiérrez. ED: Nacho Ruiz Capillas. Casting: Marian Del Moral, Eva Leira, Yolanda Serrano, Nani Sahra Walker. C: Verónica Echegui (Laia), Saumyata Bhattarai (Sharmila), Norbu Tsering Gurung (Tsering). Loc: Kathmandu (Nepal). Languages: Nepali, Catalan, English. Released by Cinema Mondo with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Outi Kainulainen / Joanna Erkkilä. 2K DCP viewed at Kino Engel, Helsinki, 10 August 2012 (day of Finnish premiere).   

Excerpts from the Catalan Wikipedia: "Victoria Subirana (Ripoll, 1959) is a teacher and Catalan, also known as Vicki Sherpa, who has dedicated his life to fighting social inequalities of the children, disadvantaged, disabled and women of Nepal. Victoria has used education as a tool to combat these inequalities and thus bring about social change. Working on the slopes of Mount Everest, 'Sherpa' is associated with children from marginalized castes. The Nepalese also called her 'Madame Sherpa'."

"She completed his studies at Ripoll. Her education continued with the completion of courses of physical expression, music and special education in several European centers and at Michigan State University (USA)."

"In 1988 she travelled for the first time in Nepal, a country towards which she felt a strong attraction. In the capital Kathmandu the poverty and the living conditions of its inhabitants made a strong impact on her. With the indelible images of children on the street in her mind she started to think about the possibility of carrying out an educational project for the disadvantaged. A year later she had designed a work program and conducted studies of Nepalese in Barcelona. She travelled back to Nepal to continue her cultural and linguistic training at Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu. She founded his first school in 1989 under the name School Dorgee as a home to 32 refugee children from Tibet."

"In 1993 the School launched the Daleki order to facilitate the social, intellectual and psychological development of the most disadvantaged community. This school was home to 320 children from kindergarten to high school. She also begins to prepare a Montessori Series of Books, more than 60 textbooks for three cycles of pre-school. With this system, Victoria tries to teach the culture, history and customs of Nepal, thus avoiding an "invasion" in the western area of ​​education."

"In 2002, she published the autobiographical book by Vicki "Vicki Sherpa, a teacher in Kathmandu" (Aguilar, 2002), which recounts her experiences as a teacher in the Asian country. In July 2005, the educational methodology created by Vicki Sherpa entered the Register of Intellectual Property with the title "transformative pedagogy"."

Icíar Bollaín: “Kathmandu Lullaby recounts the early days of young teacher in Nepalese capital. Abandoning an unfulfilling existence in Barcelona, Laia undertakes a deeply personal education project to serve those who are entitled to nothing.: the kids who live in the slums lining the rivers that run through Kathmandu. In the process of getting to know another culture, she will encounter severe poverty and appalling difficulties faced by many Nepalese women and girls, but wil also come to know great love and deep friendship. Finally Laia will find her `mirror in the sky´, her place, in Nepal.” (Icíar Bollaín)

One of the most remarkable movies made about education, an engrossing tale about an almost impossible mission based on the autobiography of a remarkable figure in education, Victòria Subirana.

Laia (based on Victòria Subirana) is a resourceful, inspired and devoted teacher of the children in Kathmandu, and she soon experiences success. But then there is a hardship, and another, and another. She overcomes them all, and loses everything. Then she starts again, and faces disaster after disaster after disaster, yet there is hope since her method has started to have an effect.

The cultural clash is huge as Laia gets to fight tradition, religion and superstition. The caste system has been officially abolished, yet it is a reality which Laia has decided to overcome. She has to fight corruption, as well, and in order to stay in Nepal the only remaining means is to get married there. She enters into a marriage of convenience, there is a dating sequence, and although she insists the marriage is a formality, a lady friend gives her a copy of Kama Sutra as a wedding present.

The school teaching scenes show us glimpses of inventive and advanced methods of pedagogy, aiming at creativity and self-direction. Shot on location, the movie offers breathtaking views of the Himalayas, its sublime mountains and wild rivers. There is a documentary passion in the views of the city of Kathmandu. The Spanish / Catalan title of the movie means Kathmandu, a Mirror in the Sky. Tsering tells Laia that everybody has a mirror in the sky, and for him it is found at the highest inhabited area of the Himalayas. Visiting Barcelona Laia realizes that her mirror in the sky is in Kathmandu.

The movie is a powerful social exposé in showing the living conditions of the slums and junkyards inhabited by the sucumbasi, the casteless. It documents the exploitation of the sucumbasi and child labour. There are views of child prostitution, brothels and showrooms with underaged girls, and dormitories of child prostitutes who have been saved from abuse and sexual violence. The deprivation of education seems to be a foundation of a structure of violence and exploitation. The movie is also about reconstituting the identity of abused Nepalese girls. There is one who has lost her name since a brother was born, who has to learn to see her face in the mirror, and who reconstructs her identity by drawing her autoportrait.

The visual quality is high, and while watching the movie from the first row I was not able to tell whether the digital presentation was film or digital. The colour palette is warm and natural, and there is a breath of life in the splendid cinematography.


William James Croft said...
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William James Croft said...

Antti, thank you for this beautiful review with some details on the background story of Vicki Sherpa. Strong emotional resonance for me and I would even say healing for us westerners without indigenous roots. Touched over and over by the story elements of loss and redemption. Going to lookup her book.

William James Croft said...

Here are some more links related to the film and backstory of Vicki,

Here is "the making of" featurette, on Youtube, some drama even in the shooting. Amazing woman director. #1
(4 approx. 10 minute clips) #2 #3 #4

Vicki Sherpa's foundation,
NGO description at Paul Hawken's site. Main site

(translated in English) Their Youtube channel

book, biography, she really did marry a sherpa, as in the movie,

"The unfinished story of Vicki Subirana starts with the story of the hopes of a young teacher with a mission of solidarity between the eyes, and culminates with the consolidation of a universal educational project for the poor and marginalized in Nepal, which has managed to teaching that anyone would want for their children in our privileged world, using the Montessori method. In its efforts to carry out their ideals Vicki had to deal with difficulties of all kinds, and to prevent the deportation of Nepal accepted even a marriage of convenience with a sherpa ... which ended up becoming a great love. The fascinating story of the life adventure author and professional results in an extraordinary book where the reader will find not only a beautiful and unusual love story, mixed with a fascinating travel book, but, above all, an informative but compelling vision of the harshest reality in the Third World."

PS some of the people involved in this film are making a new one, revolving around the kingdom of Mustang,