Injustice is invariably my chief motivator, particularly where women and children are denied their voice, or where a dominating force uses their power status to subjugate another person or people. It has inspired me to write articles, set up charities and projects, and now to make films.
The conflict between speaking your truth and judiciously keeping your mouth shut strikes a particular chord for me. Having grown up in a traditional, male-dominated household in Britain, where emotions were held in, I identify with Belmaya’s desire to conform to what society expects of her, yet being unable to suppress what she fiercely feels.
I’m perplexed by the facades people put up – to protect themselves, or to comply within the family and society. I am a communicator and a seeker by nature, for ever trying to get to the truth and heart of the matter, in a world that often obscures the truth at a personal and systemic level. Time after time I’m drawn to human stories with a female protagonist. I want to dig beneath the surface to discover what really concerns, motivates and conditions a person.
In 2006, I went to live in Nepal for 9 months, where I led the My World, My View photo project. It was then that I met the spirited teenage Belmaya. It wasn’t until the evening I left Nepal that I saw her true vulnerability. She broke down in uncontrollable tears. It touched me deeply. I felt she’d never before been valued or championed. She remained on my mind over all our years apart, until I finally found her in 2013.
I was concerned about the risk we were both taking in making this documentary: that, in digging up her past through interviews, while facing growing opposition from her husband, she might suffer psychologically. However, the opposite has happened. The very process of sharing her thoughts and feelings, having her views valued, has contributed to Belmaya’s growing inner strength and confidence. ‘Now I have guts!’ she says.
It’s made me trust in the process of documentary filmmaking, and confirmed to me that we all need to be able to speak from our hearts and be listened to. Documentary gives its subjects a voice.