White Sun

WHITE SUN, drama, not rated, in Nepali with sub­ti­tles, Cen­ter for Con­tem­po­rary Arts, 3 chiles

Pasatiempo - - NEWS -

White Sun sig­nals a true com­ing of age for its di­rec­tor and co-writer, Deepak Rau­niyer. It’s his sec­ond fea­ture film, fol­low­ing his de­but,

High­way, in 2012. High­way be­gan to sug­gest Rau­niyer’s tal­ents, but White Sun truly con­firms his abil­i­ties. Not only is this work much more dra­matic and flow­ing in its ex­e­cu­tion, it’s also a pol­ished, full-bod­ied para­ble that cap­tures the chang­ing po­lit­i­cal and so­cial con­di­tions in Nepal.

The story, co-scripted by David Barker, fol­lows the tur­moil in a Nepalese vil­lage af­ter its long­time mayor sud­denly dies. A tow­er­ing fig­ure, he stood with the tra­di­tion-minded el­ders, still prac­tic­ing rites passed down through gen­er­a­tions in this re­mote out­post perched along­side the Hi­malayas. In keep­ing with cus­tom, his portly corpse must be hefted down a moun­tain­ous trail, to be cre­mated by a river. The two sons of the mayor, Chan­dra (Daya­hang Rai) and Su­raj (Rabindra Singh Baniya), have the task of car­ry­ing the corpse.

They must ad­here to strict guide­lines en­forced by a Hindu priest — a chal­lenge made all the more dif­fi­cult by their con­stant bick­er­ing and feud­ing with each other. Su­raj, a doc­tor, has re­mained be­hind in the vil­lage and em­braced his fa­ther’s rev­er­ence to­ward the old ways, in­clud­ing the roy­al­ist monar­chy that once ruled the coun­try. But Chan­dra left home to fight with the Maoist rebels, who are now gov­ern­ing Nepal from Kathmandu. Chan­dra, or Agni (“Fire”), as he’s known among the rebels — has not re­turned in more than a decade. He bris­tles as the vil­lagers scold him for his mod­ern think­ing.

Be­sides th­ese two squab­bling broth­ers, Rau­niyer in­tro­duces the perspectives of the tough-minded, fiercely in­de­pen­dent Durga (Asha Maya Ma­grati). For­merly mar­ried to Chan­dra, she cared for his sick fa­ther, and lately has been see­ing Su­raj. There are also two young chil­dren — Durga’s daugh­ter Pooja, who thinks Chan­dra is her fa­ther, and the war-or­phan Badri, who is hope­ful he can latch onto Chan­dra and fi­nally gain some ground­ing in his hard-knocks life.

At his best, Rau­niyer evokes the poetic re­al­ism of Satya­jit Ray. Most of the scenes have a bustling, quasi-doc­u­men­tary fla­vor. But ev­ery once in a while a quiet, of­ten quite pow­er­ful, metaphor emerges. Take Chan­dra’s en­counter with his Maoist com­man­der, who is now com­mut­ing from vil­lage to vil­lage via he­li­copter, swoop­ing down from the heav­ens.

The film’s ti­tle comes from the Nepalese flag, the only coun­try’s flag, world­wide, that is non­rect­an­gu­lar in shape. It fea­tures a white sun em­bla­zoned next to a white moon, the sun rep­re­sent­ing Nepal’s war­riors, the moon its peace­keep­ers. Nepal has cho­sen White Sun as the coun­try’s of­fi­cial sub­mis­sion for Os­car con­sid­er­a­tion as best for­eign-lan­guage film. The fi­nal nom­i­nees will be an­nounced in Jan­uary. — Jon Bow­man

Fire­brand: Daya­hang Rai

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