Dominated by her husband, her family and society, Belmaya is desperate for independence. But in much of Nepal, men rule and women obey. Here, in one of the poorest nations on earth, women are daughters, wives, mothers, dependents and, all too often, victims and slaves – but rarely individuals in their own right.
Born a Dalit (the lowest, ‘untouchable’ caste), orphaned at the age of nine, poorly educated, and trapped in an abusive marriage with a baby daughter, Belmaya, 21, has given up hope of finding happiness.
Rewind to 2006, when Belmaya, at 14, participated in a photo project at a girls’ home in Pokhara. Impassioned and inspired, she was keen to change her discriminatory world through photography. But that window closed when the home locked away her camera.
Now she gets a second chance, this time to train in documentary filmmaking. Picking up the camera once more, her old spark returns. Determined to create a better life for her young daughter, Belmaya gains the skills and confidence to forge a new path. But are her resentful husband and conservative community ready for this?
I Am Belmaya is an extraordinarily intimate window into Belmaya’s world, giving an insight into the brutality of life for many girls and women in Nepal, and showing her determination to challenge social norms and transcend the life she was born into.
The result is a rich portrait, interweaving observational material with footage shot by Belmaya, and challenging the traditional roles of director/subject, as she becomes co-director of her own story.