On February 2nd, 2022, I had the honor of watching a special screening of “I Am Belmaya,” a documentary about a Nepali woman who fiercely makes her way through the caste system of Nepal. Belmaya Nepali gains independence using filmmaking to break through this social stratification. Belmaya grew up as part of the lowest caste, commonly known as the “untouchable” caste, and nobody saw her as anything more than that. She was forced to marry someone she didn’t want to marry and never had any formal education. However, she wanted to make films. She loved the idea of being a filmmaker, not only because of the beauty of filmmaking but because she could use it to support herself and her family. She was abused by her husband because he was threatened by her independence and her ability to rise above the other women in this society. She broke through the societal expectations of women by being an “untouchable” while simultaneously studying filmmaking without any formal education. Despite this abuse, she and her husband stayed together so that he could stay with their baby and she could go out and make money from her films.
Belmaya began her filmmaking journey by filming a parade that is prominent in Nepal. This led to her wanting to make a short film on the education of women in Nepal in order to depict Nepal’s gender inequality. She thus began to create the short film “Educate Our Daughters,” a 7 minute film exploring the lack of education women receive in her society. In her film, Belmaya talks about how people like her daughter should be able to get an education, and she expresses how she wants to change this. This short film won the Short Film Competition at the UK Asian Film Festival in 2019. She went on to make another film titled “Rowing Against the Flow” which explores the troubling unequal treatment of women who row boats commercially on Phewa Lake.
The screening I was able to watch was provided by The Conversationalist newspaper which specializes in writing articles about feminism and women around the world. After the film was over, the director of the documentary, Sue Carpenter, spoke with the audience about the experience of making the film. She said that it started out as something small, but as Belmaya began to grow as a filmmaker the documentary became something much more. The original plan was just to follow her through her film training, but she flew past that and reached for higher stars.
When Belmaya began to be accepted into film festivals, Carpenter said that this was something the documentary had to show. Carpenter is an independent filmmaker from England, and another powerful, independent woman helping a fellow powerful, independent woman. This is what greatness is. Women can do anything they want to do, and society should not allow them to be shot down. Women are strong and powerful just as much as any man and should never ever be looked down on based upon their gender. This documentary about Belmaya is hard proof that women can be independent and do not need men to support them or control their lives. Belmaya is a prime example of a woman who broke through societal boundaries to show the world the wrongness of sexism and gender-based violence.
This beautiful documentary portrays Belmaya as an incredible individual. On her website, linked below, you can help support her filmmaking and learn more about her. You can also find an additional link to The Conversationalist newspaper if you want to check out their work.
Belmaya’s website: https://belmaya.com/
The Conversationalist: https://conversationalist.org/