Akron International (4K+ / color / 110min / USA, Nepal)
Binod Paudel is a respected Kathmandu-based filmmaker and educator. Bulbul (2019) - his first feature as writer/director - released across Nepal to great acclaim. It collected some of this year’s top awards, press and audience responses for its poetic visuals, fresh naturalistic take and unforgettable characters. Earlier, he scripted the neorealist Saanghuro (2013), the first Nepali feature acquired by the UK’s Channel 4. Additionally, he was awarded the ‘Best Writer of the Year’ by Nepal’s President at the National Film Awards 2013 and Film Critics Society of Nepal Awards. Affiliated with the esteemed Tribhuvan University, Paudel leads Oscar International College, which offers the country’s only Bachelor’s in Film Studies. Today, his students and alumni are creating a new wave of Himalayan cinema screening at Venice, Busan and other top festivals. Now with Akron International, Binod takes his earthy, intimate characters and cinematic storytelling to a new, unexplored world.
Yatin Parkhani is Head of Development for showrunner Marc Zicree, whose series Space Command (2019) has raised over US$1,300,000 from its worldwide fan-base. Previously, as founding Head of Sales for Beverly Hills-based distributor House of Film, Yatin licensed the documentary Sunrise / Sunset Dalai Lama XIV (Vitaly Manski, 2011) across Asia. Having represented several other trans - Himalayan features, Yatin then began producing a Nepal - set documentary in partnership with critically-acclaimed writer/director Binod Paudel (BulBul, Saanghuro) and has another in Peru. In New York, he produced two no-budget narrative features Film 101 (Kevin Desmond, 2006) and Burn (unreleased) and picked up a Telly Award for his commercial work. Working with, and being mentored by veteran Cannes winner, Hollywood feature and TV director/producer Michael Schultz has given Yatin studio experience. Combining documentary aesthetics with narrative acumen and an understanding of international distribution, Yatin focuses on developing unexplored stories that connect South Asia to the world.
Following their 1990 ethnic cleansing from the Himalayan paradise of Bhutan, the BAHADUR FAMILY and thousands of Nepalis spent decades in refugee camp limbo before being resettled in the dying American Rust-belt city of Akron, Ohio. Here, HARI, a stateless high school senior, clumsily embraces everything new at North Hill High School - throwing himself into musical theater, trying to find an American girlfriend for senior prom (without knowing how to), and believing Christianity’s promises of healing and heavenly rewards. Anywhere else Hari would be too foreign, an outcast, but here he fits in half the students are refugees. His father BISHNU, once a proud farmer in Bhutan, then a musician in the camps and now just a depressed factory worker in Akron, is a patriarch whose diminishing authority (barely) covers his traumatized wife. Lost in a world that doesn’t make sense, a container of his beloved homeland’s soil is his only solace. The moment Hari receives his US citizenship, his mother dies (in front of the huge 4K TV that dominates their otherwise modest home). Soon conflict develops between an Evangelical, increasingly empowered son and his shaky, less street - savvy father on how to dispose of the body - a Christian burial or a Hindu cremation? Suddenly, two afterlifes seem to be competing for one corpse. The choice grows in importance to both men until events - oscillating between absurd and heartbreaking - collapse onto themselves in glorious, life-affirming contradictions. After all, what does heaven mean, when you’ve already been exiled from Shangri-La?