I have just completed our production trip to Nepal, where Belmaya finished making her own film, Educate Our Daughters – the culmination of her training and empowerment, a short documentary about the importance of education for girls, through the prism of her own lost childhood and her high hopes for her bright and sparky daughter Bipana, now 4 years old.
At the end of the trip, we travelled to Belmaya’s childhood village in the foothills of the Himalayas, and created a pop-up cinema to screen her film to her family, friends and neighbours. It was a magical evening, more than I could have hoped for, with Belmaya’s family finally understanding and celebrating her mission to film and tell powerful women’s stories.
Her beloved Maila Dai – second eldest brother – was initially reluctant to come to the screening, and was the last to arrive. Afterwards, Belmaya told us that he’d previously told her, ‘You’re not going to get anywhere documenting us, you should just look after your daughter.’ But after the screening, he said, with tears in his eyes, ‘I said those words to you, but now I take them back – now I’ve seen the work you’ve been doing, educating people in our village, I’m so proud of you.’
I have often questioned whether this process of learning filmmaking really would make positive change in Belmaya’s life. I’m so pleased to have discovered, on this trip, that it really has, in ways both great and subtle, and I’ve no doubt that the ripples have only just begun.