Bhutanese refugees’ plight caught on film

Himalayan News Service

Kathmandu, June 19:

Filmmaker waiting for permit to travel to Bhutan to get govt stance.

To raise awareness of an issue that has been internationally overlooked, filmmaker Grady Walker is filming a documentary on the Bhutanese refugees in Nepal. Having been “touched” by the refugees’ plight, he is anxiously waiting for permission to travel to Bhutan to film the Bhutanese perspective. “Our intention is to remain as objective and unbiased as possible,” Walker said, “but it has been difficult to convey this to the authorities in Bhutan. And we are yet to get permits to go to Bhutan to gain their perspective.” However, he is bent on completing the film whether he gets the Bhutanese authorities’ perspectives or not as “the refugees’ plight remain the same, no matter what people say on camera”. And though far from over, Walker is pleased with the progress he has made. He has one documentary to his credit — Born in Exile — a film on identity among Tibetan youth.

A “modest but dedicated” crew of four, Walker with his sound technician Domenic Senger-Schenk, translator and camera assistant Takanobu Otsu, and interviewer Gaurav Chhetri, have visited all seven refugee camps in Jhapa. Walker and Senger-Schenk are from the US, Otsu from Japan. While in Jhapa, Walker was touched by the refugees’ hospitality, with many inviting the crew into their homes and sharing their little rations generously. “At one point we were told ‘H-U-T is small, H-E-A-R-T is big’,” he said, adding “This made me realise the perseverance of the human spirit even in the most desperate conditions.” Walker was glad to see the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and World Food Programme fulfilling their mandate in the camps, but hoped the United Nations would play a more active role in facilitating a favourable resolution to the crisis. However, he feels the issue can only be solved by Bhutan. “Whatever their reasons, this is a multi-cultural age and discrimination should not be tolerated.” And according to him, it was “important to possess a global perspective while manifesting your actions on a local level”. “When you see injustice in the world, it takes a lot of courage as an individual to go out and correct it. For that I would like to thank my crew and everyone who has supported my work,” he said. With plans to show his film at international and local film festivals, Walker hopes to complete it by the end of the year. As of now, the film is un-named.