Bringing Outdoor Movie Culture to Nepal

For years, the Open Air Foundation has been assisting organizations in bringing informative media and indigenous cultural productions to marginalized communities around the world. Many more organizations approach us every day asking for even more support. Fully aware of the fact that there are some projects that just can't be pulled by a single foundation of our size, we now launch a new series of blog entries meant to bounce around ideas, exchange expertise and inspire socially-minded individuals to a feelable action.

The series has a pretty straightforward format. Each week we'll be talking about the needs and new exciting possibilities for use of our inflatable screens and audio-visual equipment in places that need outdoor screenings the most. These places are either beyond the internet reach or below the radar of TV antennas. Each week there will be a new country to cover.

Today we will talk about Nepal, a landlocked country in South Asia. Home to eight of the world's ten tallest mountains, Nepal is the size of State of Iowa by area. It is also home to the Nepal International Indigenous Film Festival (NIIFF). Isn't NIFF a great way to use the power of cinema under the stars and thus give the inhabitants of the Himalayas resources and opportunities to tell their own stories with film?

Successful efforts of this kind already came to life within villages and refugee camps in Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. Open Air Cinema's inflatable screen technology has been used in those Eastern African nations to educate people on current issues like women's rights and AIDS prevention.

Other communities that could benefit from outdoor movie screenings are: Prisoners and prison staff in Nepal. 83 % of inmates there suffer from anxiety, post-traumatic stress symptoms as well as physical health issues. Legal or paralegal services are not made available to the prisoners.

I was amazed to know about your programs. I could have never thought of [this].  Everyone would be more than happy, if we could have this in the rural parts of Nepal too. Personally, I prefer organising one to jails of Nepal; which are in [a] very bad condition, -- shared Elina from Nepal in an email to us. While they are under detention, inmates should be taught some skills so that when they get out of prison, they can earn a living and would not commit crimes anymore, -- Gobinda Mani Bhurtel, chief of the Central Jail in Kathmandu, capital of Nepal.

While serving time, inmates tend to be criminalized due to the influence of hard core criminals, lack of space and interventions. Prison staff lacks the proper training, particularly on how to impose discipline among the inmates or teach them some skills as part of their rehabilitation.

Bedbyas Kharel, another Open Air Cinema fan in Nepal, argued in an email to us that "above 70% people live in rural areas of Nepal and don't have access to cinema."

While Gautam Dhimal, a photographer and filmmaker, stresses the importance of educating children through cinema in rural Nepal. "[E]specially the children who have not even ever been outside their villages and only have access to a few books that they study in the only available primary school education."

Gautam would show them some educational films himself "on a small laptop that I carried and on a few occassions screened on the wall with a portable projector."

While Sara Holcombe of a media organization in Nepal called Sattya Media Arts Collective writes:

I'm not sure how the Open Air Cinema program works but I know that we could use one of the blow up cinemas you guys have created. It's perfect for what we're already doing and would like to continue doing. I noticed last night when we screened a film in a local venue on our white sheet that the wrinkles in the sheet create a warped view of the film in some places. It's difficult to find a light-weight substitute for a cinema screen here in Kathmandu.

There are many more proposals and ideas shared with us by people of Nepal.

If you have practical suggestions on how to bring Open Air Cinema to the above-mentioned communities or you'd like to make a donation to support our ongoing projects in Mexico, Myanmar and Ukraine, please get in touch with us here.

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