Fidel Devkota dives deep into The Red Suitcase

The Red Suitcase

It is not a new case when well-known multiplexes in the Valley care less about time slots for Nepali movies. Eventually, Nepali movies known for doing less business in comparison to international movies; agree to whatever time slots are available in the multiplexes.

However, the director of the Nepali movie The Red Suitcase, Fidel Devkota did something out of the box. The Red Suitcase, which was selected for the 80th edition of the Venice Film Festival is all set to release on April 12 across Nepal. Nevertheless, the filmmakers released a press statement on April 7 stating that it would not be showcased in the QFX chain, which created a stir throughout the Nepali film industry.

Coming of such an unexpected decision from The Red Suitcase team, surprised hundreds of film enthusiasts. 

“QFX said that The Red Suitcase could not be allocated prime screening time due to the scheduling constraints caused by other domestic and foreign films,” the press release reads. “In an email, they suggested reconsideration if the film were to be released next week. We found this objectionable and subsequently announced that the film would not be screened in the QFX chain.” 

The QFX has been receiving flak after the press release was made public. Despite the unfairness posed by QFX, the movie’s director Devkota takes it positively. He says the decision of QFX has given independent filmmakers like us the courage to stand up for one’s self.    

He says, “For the future generation, such a stand will help.” He further adds while our presence here may not be significant, we have reached different parts of the world which are more meaningful. Film is the only sector of art that has obtained global recognition. “I think they are here for business but the business also has some ethics, however, I am not in a position to question their ethics,” says Devkota. 

Devkota believes in such cases the government should have a significant role. They should have a clear policy or mandate about such issues. This is not the first time that the film sector has gone through similar issues. Earlier, Aaina Jhyal Ko Putali also struggled on a similar issue. Due to the lack of policy, such problems in the Nepali film sector have been persisting. 

Devkota is also equally concerned about increasing film literacy and to do so he says various genres of films should be made accessible to the audiences. The team of The Red Suitcase urges for a fair and equal playground. 

“We are clear about our limitations that we can’t occupy the entire film hall, but they can’t deprive us of the equal opportunity.” 

The Red Suitcase is just 87 minutes long, which means it does not even need a break in the middle. The reluctance of QFX to give a single prime screening slot to The Red Suitcase has questioned their business intentions. 

What’s with the title?

The title of the movie itself has been a matter of interest. According to Devkota, the title has two sides; physical and spiritual. Regarding the physical side, in 2021 while Devkota was writing a script of the film he saw a photo captured by Photojournalist Nimesh Rai, where a red suitcase was placed next to a coffin brought from a foreign soil.    

Talking about the spiritual side he says, red is the colour of passion. 

“We all are dragging a luggage of our dreams and desires. Some of our dreams might be fulfilled, but some of them are not.”  

These elements propelled Devkota to entitle the movie The Red Suitcase.  

The title depicts reality, he adds.   

Why youth? 

The Red Suitcase

The movie revolves around the issues of Nepali youth. The frustrating situation of youth in the country is one of the key reasons that inspired Devkota to make a film on the issues of youth. 

“Nepal has become no country for young men. All the sectors are dominated by aged individuals,” says Devkota.  

What frustrates Devkota is the bureaucracy which creates troubles all the time. He says the unnecessary hassle created by bureaucracy discourages youths from staying in the country. 

He further says, there is no voice of youth, with elderly leaders showing reluctance to listen to the perspectives of younger generations.

“The ones who are supposed to build the nation are leaving the country, giving their entire effort to other’s land,” says Devkota. “The leaders haven’t thought about encouraging youth.”   

According to him, the country hasn’t yet seen the worst side of this existing scenario. If this trend persists, the future looks bleak. The country is selling its human resources like the butcher selling meat.   

While talking to Onlinekhabar,  Devkota expresses a genuine concern that it has become hard to find a family where at least one member is not staying in a foreign country.  Even many of those who are staying here are trying to leave the country. 

“The crisis of human resources has already started. For instance, it has become very hard to find a plumber.”   

He believes that if politics will change to the good side, people will return home. 

How is Fidel’s journey to filmmaking?

The Red Suitcase

Devkota’s filmmaking journey began in 2004 when he enrolled in the College of Film Studies, Kathmandu. He was the topper of his batch. Then in 2008, he went to Germany to pursue a master’s degree in anthropological filmmaking. Later he also completed a PhD in the same subject.  

In 2007 Devkota released his debut short movie Irony. 

Devkota already had an idea of filmmaking techniques while pursuing a bachelor’s degree. So during his master’s and PhD, he started working on the content of the film. In 2017, he completed his PhD. 

After completing his PhD, he realised that it was time to pursue his lifelong passion for fiction filmmaking.

As Devkota was immersed in developing a story, the Covid-19 pandemic struck. The scripting process for The Red Suitcase accelerated rapidly during this time, as the pandemic left Devkota with little else to do besides writing. Remarkably, the film went from script to completion of shooting in just nine months.

He took a couple of months in script writing. He wrote 20 to 25 versions of the film. Editing of the film took a longer time because it had to be done online with the editor based in Sri Lanka. 

Another interesting thing about this film is that almost all the crew members are long-time good friends of Devkota. The film for him is also like “Friends coming together.”  So although it was his debut film, he did not have much difficulty. 

Along with Devkota, there are also other debutants in this film. Through this film, he wanted to build a team of young people, with whom he could work in future as well. 

“My motive behind doing so was the collective growth of everyone. I have massively used students of film school,” he says.   

Devkota, as a student of visual anthropology, has also employed anthropological elements in the film. 

He says, “The absence of anthropological nuances such as character’s sociology, physiology and psychology has prevented Nepali films from becoming Nepali.”  

The Red Suitcase is slated to release in cinema halls from April 12.   

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

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