A travel to discover the most unknown Nepal, the dark side hidden behind its fascinating heights. Heaps of plastic and waste submerge a fading nature, smothering a land in tension between its ancient culture and a modern westernized way of life, due to mass tourism.
Waste Mandala, the beautiful documentary directed by Alessandro Bernard and Paolo Ceretto, shows this contradiction using an original point of view. The movie, born during the project of Cinemambiente Lab 2014, was selected for CinemAmbiente Environmental Film Festival 2015 and Innsbruck Nature Film Festival, where it won the Terra Mater Audience Award. Both festivals are members of the Green Film Network.
The voice leading the audience through the documentary belongs to Achut Gurung, a former mountain guide who chose to fight personally the issue of waste in Nepal. Achut began to clean up his land from plastic inspiring more and more people, hundreds of volunteers that currently represent the Green Soldiers movement.
“When we heard the story of the Green Soldiers from a friend who had just come back from Nepal, we immediately understood that the way we were looking for was just there: a journey which would allow us to talk about one of the gravest problems of our time, that is the waste management, from a completely new perspective” the director Alessandro Bernard tells us.
Achut’s daily challenge is to rouse by action the soul of his people, a community who lives in harmony with nature and its spirituality. His idea to send a deep message of change by using plastic waste and transform it in a big and colorful mandala, to build up in one of the biggest squares in Katmandu, starts from here. A symbol of harmony in order to show everyone that even bad habits can be changed and transformed into something good.
“Our film isn’t intended to simply show the birth of a group of activists that are fighting to save their own land”, the director continues. “It is intended to discuss the clash between consumer culture and uncontrolled progress, which we took with us there through tourism, and another connected to traditions, cults and traumatic transition. We have documented the attempt of the people we met to find a third way through a universal symbol that talks to everyone and puts two worlds together. It shows us that change, whatever it is, has to occur also within ourselves”.
A portrait painted by the directors with a smart style, in which form and contents reach a perfect balance. “First of all we asked ourselves a question: what’s behind the wonderful pictures of the postcards we receive? We wanted our film to play with the contrasts between stereotyped images of a world which is too often simplified and its hidden side: the waste. A never told Nepal, which is not just made of Hindu gurus, spirituality and purity, but also of brutal images, cities swallowed by traffic and chaos, tourist gadgets and, above all, garbage and plastic. Plastic images are the visual leitmotiv of the film. A contrast in which the powerful and fascinating colors of plastic waste have its creative reuse with the mandala, a universal symbol of peace. In the end, the images we caught in the middle of the meetings, in the daring campaigns organized to collect waste and its odd music, in the mandala’s construction, prompted us to simulate a Bollywood scenario. We hope we’ve managed to give a more truthful image of this population”.
The Nepal that emerges is a land ready to rise up and recover its strength. “Behind all environmental questions and its solutions there are only people”, Alessandro Bernard concludes. Thanks to Achut’s job, completed in 2015 May 3rd, the government and people in Nepal began to work together and decided to become part of the change.