Belmaya, at 21, has given up hope of finding happiness. Dominated by her husband, her family and society, she yearns 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, victims, slaves – but rarely individuals in their own right.
Born a Dalit (the lowest, ‘untouchable’ caste), orphaned at the age of nine and poorly educated, Belmaya is living in a small, dark room with her husband and baby daughter, with no prospects of a better life.
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 Belmaya gets a second chance – this time to train in documentary filmmaking. Picking up the camera once more, her old spark returns. But are her resentful husband and conservative community ready for this?
I Am Belmaya follows her journey from 2014 as she gains not just filmmaking skills, but the confidence to stand up to her abusive husband. The power starts shifting into her hands.
Then, in 2015, just after completing a prestigious job filming the Gurkha 200th anniversary celebrations, the great earthquake strikes and all work comes to a halt.
Determined not to give up, Belmaya finally completes her graduation film, Educate Our Daughters, a personal insight into education for girls in Nepal. She and her film go on to win hearts and awards, taking Belmaya to places she never dreamed she would go.
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.