Old wounds heal hard in White Sun, the sophomore effort from Nepalese filmmaker Deepak Rauniyar. When a young man named Chandra's father dies in his tiny home village, he must return to help in the process. Years ago, Chandra fought as an insurgent during the region's civil war that cost thousands of lives, and his hometown still reels in the aftermath. Men, outside of elders mired in tradition, are few and far between, having died in the war or moved on to greener pastures, and what few villagers remain cling desperately to their way of life.
Chandra, who now lives in Kathmandu, must navigate a confusing labyrinth of past relationships, strict ceremonial guidelines for his father's corpse and residual pain in the eyes of those he left behind.
White Sun does hit all the right cinematographic notes with snow-capped mountains looming above the quaint village and a sort of ever-present stuck-in-time feel. Further gripping are the post-mortem rules of such a remote area: who can touch the body, how the body must be removed from the house and so forth. But the longer Chandra sticks around, the more his psychological turmoil becomes apparent, leaving us to wonder if we ever truly process trauma or simply run from it as long as we can.
The gorgeous setting complements the engaging performances—especially from child actors who prove so natural and engrossing that even veteran Nepalese performers have trouble keeping up. But someplace between the heavy subject matter and the molasses-slow pacing, it can be easy to let your mind wander. For a relatively obscure director, Rauniyar has put together an interesting slice of his country's challenges; but without an interest in the area or a preexisting love of ultra-dramatic film, White Sun could prove too slow for some. This is perhaps cinema for cinematophiles in the strictest sense, and a fun time at the movies it is not. Of course, there's nothing wrong with that, and film fest buzz isn't off the mark—you just have to decide if you have the fortitude for such fare. Those who falter at the idea need not apply.
7 + Gorgeous, moving – Incredibly slow and heavy
Directed by Rauniyar
With Dayahang Rai, Asha Maya Magrati and Deepak Chhetri
Center for Contemporary Arts, NR, 89 min.