Happy Dashain to all. Here is today’s account from my South Asian Film Festival Diary: I was deeply saddened by watching a film that detailed the horrifying accounts of a Nepali journalist who was arrested by the (Royal) Nepali Army in 2004, locked up in a dark hell called Bhairabnath Battalion and tortured by mad, senseless and brainwashed soldiers.
By Dinesh Wagle
Wagle Street Journal
One documentary film after another- the marathon film watching. The Dashain, biggest festival of Nepali people, began yesterday while I was engrossed in watching non-fiction films and writing about the event in my newspaper. Hundreds of people in Kathmandu have been experiencing various aspects of the life and time of South Asia through the non-fiction films that are being screened at Kumari Cinema since Thursday. You probably guessed it right: I am talking about the South Asian film festival- Film South Asia- that is organized in the Nepali capital at this time in every two year. (Here is an account of the first day.) Today I watched films about the lives of girls working in an Indian call center (Outsourced), the saga of moustache in Bengali society (Moustaches Unlimited), the mast atmosphere (love, tolerance and ecstasy) in a Pakistani society with Sufi culture (Mast Qalandar). I enjoyed Outsourced very much as I am interested in the cultural aspects of BPO but I didn’t find anything new in the film because many things are already told in a Discovery Times documentary by Thomas Friedman who also wrote The World is Flat. The book also provides vivid account of BPO life and much more. The moustache thing was hilarious as I myself sport junga dari (moustache and beard).
Apart from those feel good films, I was deeply saddened by watching a film that detailed the horrifying accounts of a Nepali journalist who was arrested by the (Royal) Nepali Army in 2004, locked up in a dark hell called Bhairabnath Battalion and tortured by mad, senseless and brainwashed soldiers. I have written about my impression of the film for my newspaper in Nepal and here is the English version of what I wrote (not life by line translation because I don’t have the Nepali version here.):
The film, “Chaama Deu! Tara Nabirsa” (Forgive! Forget Not!), is the story of journalist Bhairaja Ghimire who was arrested the guerilla way by soldiers while riding back to home after interviewing a Maoist cadre. (The cadre was pillion riding the reporter’s bike). The entire film doesn’t have any faces (only sounds and bodies moving) except at the end when the reporter talks to the filmmaker because the entire story is told from the perspective of the reporter who is either blindfolded or kept in completely dark room throughout the 15 months in detention. Technically, the documentary is poor in quality and the filmmaker Pranaya Limbu hasn’t done much research. The only thing he did good is that he told the story of the reporter in a form different than the print medium.
Mentioning about the society heading towards forming a New Nepal and stating that the cycle of revenge never ends, journalist Ghimire says at the end of the film, “If the people and organization who tortured me come and as for forgiveness, I will forgive them. But I will not forge the incident.”
It’s his greatness that he is willing to forgive but after watching the film, viewers are compelled to ask some questions about the image and duty of journalists in Nepal. Should a journalist give ride to a Maoist cadre especially in such situation when the state has declared them terrorist and fighting against them? Bhairaja has repeatedly told the soldiers in every session of interrogation that involves cruel torture that he wasn’t even a supporter of the Maoist party let alone being a Maoist. His argument is proved as the Army, unable to prove his association with the Maoist, finally releases him.
There are many who work openly for certain political parties, even work at papers run by political parties and still claim to be journalist. How can those people be given the same journalistic identity that apolitical or politically neutral and professional reporters deserve? My question is: how can a reporter from, for example, Janadesh, a declared Maoist mouthpiece weekly, and I, a reporter who has chosen journalism is a career, can be treated in the same way? Yes having faith to certain ideology is on thing, openly working on behalf of a political party advocating that ideology is another. There should be clear demarcation.
Soldiers, while torturing the reporter, badmouth all journalists in general and brand them as the associates of terrorists (Maoists). My impression is that soldiers and many officers in the army are systematically taught negative things about journalism. If that is the case, the Nepali Army that is supposedly going through democratic reforms must take it seriously and try to change it.
The film, though tells a very important and must-told story, presents only the half side of a coin. The other half of the coin is filled with details of the inhuman torture and killings by the Maoists. “I will also try to make film about that,” said Pranaya Limbu while responding a viewer’s query after the screening the film in Kumari Cinema that was accommodating people not only in seats but also on aisles. I think he really should do that.