CamdenNewJournal

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Worlds apart in Children of the Snow Land

Superb and moving documentary from Dartmouth Film telling the story of children journeying home to families in remote villages in Nepal they haven’t seen for more than 10 years

15 March, 2019 — By Dan Carrier

CHILDREN OF THE SNOW LAND
Directed by Zara Balfour and Marcus Stephenson
Certificate PG
☆☆☆☆

IMAGINE having to walk 300 kilometres through some of the toughest terrain in the world, all to see your mum and dad.

And then imagine you were undertaking this journey after a 10-year absence – having been sent from your home as a small child to go to school, returning aged 16.

This is the basic premise behind this superb documentary produced by Dartmouth Films about families who live in the most remote areas of Nepal, who send their children to school in Kathmandu.

The children come from some of the furthest reaches of the Himalayas. Their villages have remained almost unchanged for 2,000 years – a close-knit culture that has survived in extremely tough conditions.

And the children have been living in a modern world, a world of mobile phones and the internet, of broad horizons stretching beyond borders. The differences between the world they have come from to the one they experienced as they have grown up is pronounced. It provides the narrative thrust for the film.

Throw in some worldly knowledge – the children appear to have earned wisdom way beyond their years, forged by the welding of their background with their education – and some simply stunning backdrops of the natural world, and you can’t help feeling this film has an ethereal air about it.

It touches on what family means and the love we feel for our relatives. It considers the passing of time. It tackles the value of education – and, above all, introduces us to young people, whose life is so far removed from our own in terms of environment but whose humanity is apparent within all of us and easy to relate to.

Directors ​Zara Balfour and ​Marcus Stephenson said they were driven to make the film when they found out many Himalayan children don’t get to see their parents for 10 to 12 years.

“We were compelled to bring their story to the big screen,” they said. “We trained the students in film-making so that they could tell their story directly and intimately. We then travelled and filmed with them as they returned home.

“Imagine the heartbreaking choice to send a child away so that they can have a better life, and the pain experienced by these children growing up away from home, thinking that their parents didn’t love them enough to keep them. The journey was emotionally charged and physically tough.

“Returning to their homeland and parents offered the children tremendous healing, understanding – and wisdom beyond what most of us would have at that age.”

Above all, this film is about what binds us together as family: it is extremely moving hearing one of the boys, Tsering Deki Lama, speak of how much he loves his father – a man he hasn’t seen for a decade – and how he longs to set eyes on him once more.

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