On Wednesday 6th and Thursday 7th International Dalit Solidarity Network, along with Tideturner Films, organised a virtual viewing of ‘I Am Belmaya’: a documentary made by Sue Carpenter and Belmaya Nepali about Belmaya’s journey to become a film-maker, centred mainly in Nepal.
Belmaya is both female and Dalit, and the intersectionality of these two aspects have held back her progress in life. Her father died of cancer when she was young, her mother of suicide sometime later, and she ended up in a children’s home. Her education was cut short by the lack of empathy towards her, with the teacher accusing her of having a head full of cow dung. Consequently, she married early and soon had a daughter to raise. Doing back breaking work in construction, unhappy in her marriage and desperate to ensure that her daughter had a good education, Belmaya took the opportunity to learn how to make films after experiencing the joys of photography whilst in the children’s home.
The story of how she became the role-model she wanted to be for her child, and her newfound ability to tell the stories of those who are most marginalised in Nepalese society, make for a wonderful and incredibly moving film. Mentored by Sue Carpenter, the film’s co-director, and other teachers later in life, it is clear that Belmaya has been given an opportunity that few in her position are offered.
The audience were treated to a unique Q and A session with Sue and Belmaya, assisted by translator, Bishu. The range of questions were wide – covering what she still has to learn as a film-maker, the difficulties over her poor education, Nepalese society’s view of women and her hopes for the future. Perhaps most heartening was the potential offer of work from those participating in the Q and A, giving Belmaya the chance to increase both her skills and her earnings. Sue has obviously been an incredible source of strength during this time, working hard to make sure that Belmaya and the film get the recognition that they deserve.
It was a genuine pleasure to see ‘I Am Belmaya’, a film which gives a heartening glimpse of how caste and gender can be overcome with determination and the right help. To find out more about the film, go to: I AM BELMAYA – Taking the Camera and Power into Her Hands.