Dhorpatan – No Winter Holidays echoes tales of unyielding spirits

No Winter Holidays
No Winter Holidays captures the diverse aspects of the characters, offering a poignant portrayal of their lives amid the challenges of extreme cold and hardship.

Ever wondered what it’s like to live in the cold with only a few people around? Picture yourself in knee-deep snow, with no one to call for help when you are in need. If you are curious, Dhorpatan: No Winter Holidays, a documentary film, delves into this by showcasing the story of two septuagenarian women entrusted with overseeing the entire village during the dead of winter.

The winter in Dhorpatan is harsh. It snows almost every other day with the occasional storms which adds to the struggle of locals. No wonder most, who live in higher parts of the region shift down. However, defying this trend, the two women persistently bear the cold, choosing to stay in the village and oversee everything even as the rest of the community migrates downhill during the dead of winter.

You can experience how cold it gets by watching No Winter Holidays directed by Rajan Kathet and Sunir Pandey. The directorial duo portrays the unforgiving winter conditions in the region, shedding light on the resilience of the septuagenarian co-wives, Ratima and Kalima. Despite being in their 70s, they navigate the challenges of the severe weather, tending to farmland, livestock, and the entire village named Pakhathar.

Sowing the seeds

The idea for No Winter Holidays came in 2018 when Pandey came across an episode of Herne Katha, a web series that tells the stories of the common people in the country. The episode focused on how the village moved down and how the two women Ratima and Kalima looked after it instead of tagging along.

“After watching it, I told Rajan (Kathet), we must go to Pakhathar during winter, spend at least 100 days and make a film about those two ladies,” says Pandey. 

Intrigued by the narrative, Pandey and Kathet went to Pakhathar to capture the daily lives of the two women through their lens. After spending two weeks, they returned to Kathmandu and planned on how to shoot the story of the two women.

Soon, Pandey and Kathet along with cinematographer Babin Dulal packed their bags and were on their way to Pakhathar.

Filming, however, was not going to be easy. The cold was harsh and the homes and landscape were often blanketed in snow. Frequent storms presented additional challenges for the team.

“The extreme cold posed difficulties in preserving batteries, and the situation got worse when the place had its electricity cut off due to issues with the hydropower plant,” says Pandey.

However, the filmmakers, undeterred, resourcefully addressed these challenges by using various sources and successfully lobbied to resolve the issue.

Despite encountering technical challenges, the team had made thorough preparations to protect against health issues. They took essential items such as vitamin C, hot chocolates, cheese, green tea, and other necessities to ensure they remained healthy and warm during the shoot.

Interestingly, all three, Pandey, Kathet and Dulal view these challenges and limitations as transformative. They express gratitude for the experience, believing that overcoming these obstacles has heightened their awareness and consciousness about the film, enriching the overall creative process.

Life in the cold

No Winter Holidays
No Winter Holidays is not just about portraying sadness; it also aims to inspire by showing how people, regardless of age, can endure challenges.

No Winter Holidays captures the diverse aspects of the characters, offering a poignant portrayal of their lives amid the challenges of extreme cold and hardship. The filmmakers deserve praise for their efforts, bravely navigating a challenging location to provide insight into the characters’ past and present.

However, amidst this comprehensive storytelling, there are still aspects that might leave the audience curious. One example is the omission of the characters’ names throughout the entire movie. This deliberate choice by the filmmakers adds an intriguing layer, leaving the audience with a sense of curiosity and prompting further reflection on the characters and their untold stories.

Another intriguing aspect of No Winter Holidays is the deft use of symbols to convey the essence of the film. For example, in a particular scene, the two kids (goat) are portrayed colliding foreheads, symbolising their enduring conflict. Throughout the film, numerous other symbolic elements are carefully incorporated into the narrative, enriching the storytelling with layers of meaning. To fully appreciate and understand these symbols, one must experience the film firsthand, allowing the subtle nuances to unfold and contribute to the depth of the overall storytelling.

As No Winter Holidays has so much to offer about struggle and hardships, the plot of the movie feels more realistic and intense thanks to the background score composed by Rajan Shrestha.

No Winter Holidays is not just about portraying sadness; it also aims to inspire by showing how people, regardless of age, can endure challenges. It also brings humour and joy through local slang, conversations, and folk songs. Moreover, the film presents beautiful landscapes of Dhorpatan, adding to its visual appeal.

Global recognition

Sunir Pandey and Rajan Kathet at the AlterNativa Awards in Kazakhstan.

Premiering at Sheffield DocFest in June 2023, the film has garnered acclaim, earning the Nativa Award and a special mention in the Best International Documentary category at the DokuBaku International Film Festival. Additionally, it received an honourable mention in the International Competition at the Lima Alterna International Film Festival.

The film also won the Best Documentary award at the 11th Nepal Human Rights International Film Festival which was held in Kathmandu from December 9 to December 12.

Apart from that, No Winter Holidays recently had its Asian premiere at the DMZ International Documentary Film Festival and South Asian Premier at the Dharmashala International Film Festival.

Owing to the global success, the duo have released the film in Nepal and is currently being screened at CDC Cinemas in Kathmandu. Breaking from the usual practice where film halls and documentary makers shy away from screening these films, the creators of No Winter Holidays are offering audiences a unique cinematic experience.

“We want to show that these types of films have an audience, ” says Pandey. “We aim to establish a culture of watching such movies in a movie theatre.”

The makers of No Winter Holidays believe that running films of such an uncommon genre in the Nepali movie theatres will aid in exploring and establishing connections with people interested in watching such movies in a cinema hall.

“People, including friends and families, are also curious about what we did for the last four or five years. And through this movie we want to give answers,” says Pandey. 

Dhorpatan- No Winter Holidays is running at CDC Cinemas, Sundhara at 5:00 pm.

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Prasun Sangroula is an Onlinekhabar correspondent, mainly covering arts, society and sports.

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