Last week, I got an email from the most important documentary film festival, www.idfa.nl. They accepted my first feature length piece of work, Untouchable Love, in their Docs for Sale section. How I wish I had finished it in time to meet the deadline for the main festival!
Well, when some people hear that I was in Nepal (overseas!) for two years making a film, their first thought is that I got a lot of money. Sometimes I laugh on hearing that, for the story behind the making of Untouchable Love can make a documentary of its own.
|Interviewing one of the girls, whose crime was to fall in love.|
It took me one year from the time I decided to make this film to fly to Nepal. One year of researching and knocking on NGO doors for a chance to go to South Asia. And why did I want to make it? I was searching for the meaning of love. Yet another girl had broken my heart. I was depressed, looking at a bleak future where I grow up in a lonely house with a dog for company. I started to ask myself, "What is the meaning of love?" and then I thought I could find the answers if I wrote a book about it. Or made a film about it. I heard of the poor girls in strict Muslim countries who have no freedom to fall in love, and I thought of going over there -- Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, or some such place -- and telling their stories. But the insecurity in that region discouraged me. And then I learnt about the youth in Hindu societies suffering a similar fate, and I decided to go to South Asia. I quit my day job, blindly, stupidly, and embarked on a foolish mission to become a full time filmmaker.
|I lived like a beggar in Nepal.|
At first I wanted to do it in India, but I failed to get a way in. I had to settle for Nepal. As I mentioned before, it took me almost a year to finally board the plane to go to Nepal. By this time, I was broke. When I landed in Kathmandu airport, I had only 135 US Dollars in my pockets, and I had to pay a hundred dollars for a three month tourist Visa. Then I was left with 35 dollars and a pair of jeans whose fly was broken.
|In spite of all the pains, making the doc was fun!|
The zip went broke shortly after I left Entebbe. All the security checks -- take off your shoes, take off your belt -- stressed my pants, which I had worn for nearly a whole year. They were faded. I badly needed a new one, but as I had quit my day job to make this documentary, I was really broke at the end of that year. I couldn't buy new clothes. And the zip of my favorite jeans stopped working soon after I completed the stupid security checks at Entebbe.
Worse, I had forgotten to put on underwear that day. Well, not forgotten, but as I rushed out of my house to catch a commuter taxi to the airport, I noticed I had not worn any underpants. I searched through my laundry basket and could not find a clean one. I knew there was a clean boxer somewhere, but I just couldn't find it. Time was running out. I had to go to the airport without any underwear. And after the last security check, the zip broke.
Unluckily for me, I had checked in my luggage. I could not get a new pair of trousers to change. The only luggage I carried around was my laptop bag, and so I put it to best use -- holding it in front of my crotch so that people would not see the open zip. The only problem is that each time I had to pass through security, I had to surrender the bag, take off my belt and shoes, and inevitably expose my unzipped pants with the member dangling inside.
We stopped in Addis Abba for about two hours, and then in Delhi for six hours. When we finally reached Kathmandu, I was so glad. Only one more set of security people to endure and I could be able to change into a more decent pair of pants!
But what a statement I was making! Here I was coming into Nepal, to make a documentary about love, with my pants unzipped and my 'gadgets' dangling in the darkness for everyone to oogle at! No wonder, my Nepali hosts kept offering me wives to bring back to Uganda. :-))
They thought I was rich, being a foreigner. They could not believe that I had only 35 US Dollars in my jean trousers with a broken zip when I walked into their country. And that for two months, I had to live in cheap hostels (Chetena Kendra, in Banepa) and with kind families, until I found a permanent home for myself in Dhangadi town. :-)
|I wish my arrival was much more glamorous. :-)|
I went to Nepal as a volunteer, through Volunteer Services Overseas, and so my accommodation and food was covered for two years. I had to work as an Advocacy Adviser to a local Nepali organization, but I might have as well been on vacation. My workload was so light that I ended up referring to myself as a 'voluntourist'. But well, this helped me to dedicate a lot of time to making the documentary. I had to look for money to make it, and I needed a lot of cash for I had to travel from one end of the country to the other -- a three day journey by bus, two hours on a plane -- collecting stories, interviewing witnesses, shooting pictures, and I was wondering how I would pull it off. I had to do this within a certain time frame or else I would return to Uganda without achieving my goals.
Being a black man living in Nepal tested me with fire. I had to endure negative culture shock, a lot of staring, a lotof things that made me want to give up. But luck befell me nearly ten months down the road. I heard of someone with an underspent budget, who was looking for ways to spend the money, and I convinced them making a social action documentary is a good way to do it. I went on to make the documentary.
Now, almost exactly two years after I set off for Nepal, the documentary gets accepted at IDFA's Docs for Sale. Hopefully, it's the first in a long line of festival acceptances. All I pray is that next time I want to make a film, I won't have to fly through several airports with unzipped jeans and only 135 bucks in my pockets.
You might want to get updates on my future projects, so follow this blog, or go to www.facebook.com/dilstories And if you enjoyed this post, help spread the love. Email it to a friend. Share it on facebook and twitter. The buttons are above (can't figure out how to put it below the post as well). Next time, I'll write a bit about love, sex, marriage and dating in contemporary Nepal. Please come back.
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