Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Nepal's culture, history and current politics blend in Deepak Rauniyar's moving WHITE SUN

So what do you know about the country of Nepal? The adult son of a good friend of mine (who produced an Oscar-nominated short some years back) has spent a lot of time there and loves the place, yet other than realizing that Nepal borders on India to the south and the now-China-conquered state of Tibet to the north, TrustMovies knew little else, except that its capital is Kathmandu and the world's highest mountain -- Everest -- is located therein. After viewing the new film WHITE SUN, I suspect that you will, as did I, want to know more about this fascinating and, from the looks of it, quite beautiful Himalayan country.

As written and directed by Nepalese filmmaker Deepak Rauniyar (shown at left), this gentle, humorous and finally surprisingly moving film explores family life and current politics, even as it surveys both tradition and the changes that have now come to this little country. While these changes have resulted in war, death and families seemingly as divided as were some of ours here in the USA during the Civil War, the movie itself -- because it takes place post-war, as divisions are being healed and accommodations made to politics and modernity -- proves much quieter and concerned more with healing than with that earlier fracturing.

The tale told here is beautifully conceived and executed by Mr. Rauniyar to both encompass and lay bare his theme of monarchy vs Maoist, tradition vs change. Further, the details he offers enable us to follow and appreciate most of the story, even if some of the ironies and subtleties are undoubtedly lost on us in the process.

The sudden death of the father of a family reunites those long separated by politics and familial divisions, even as this event offers a terrifically cogent means to bring the idea of progress and what this means to the forefront. The filmmaker does not, so far as I could tell, come down hard on either side of the debate. Rather he finds the irony and humor under the surface, allowing these to bubble up in ways quite charming and surprising.

In addition to its main theme, the film also delivers nods to paternity -- real, imagined and desired -- and feminism along the way. Rauniyar has corralled a fine cast that delivers excellent performances throughout. Granted there is occasional overplayed exposition, as when a villager in the funeral procession explains to his friends (but really to us) things about his family that those villagers would clearly already know. But this is minor when compared to this writer/director's accomplishments in demonstrating both the pros and cons embedded in warring ideologies.

Many of the adults here may be overly set in their ways, but it is the children, finally, who command the filmmaker's (and our own) respect and caring, and White Sun's finale seems both unexpected yet exactly right and wonderfully just.  The movie will be this year's submission from Nepal for Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. I should think that our Academy will take note and perhaps shortlist the movie, if not nominate it outright.

From KimStim Films, the movie, which opened in New York City earlier this month to very good reviews, hits Los Angeles this Friday, September 29, opening at Laemmle's Music Hall 3. Click here and then scroll down and click on PLAY DATES to view all past and future cities and theaters at which the film will screen. (I would think we'll also have an eventual VOD/DVD release.)

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