The crowded New York premiere of the Nepali movie “Visa Girl” became more than a testimony to the rising popularity of South Asian filmmaking. Profits from the screenings at NYU Cantor Film Center will go to the non-profit organization Empower1, established a year ago to help the street children of Nepal.
The March 30 and 31 presentations introduced Empower1’s new project, “OFF the Streets, ON to Life,” to help poor Nepali children leave the streets.
“I picked this particular movie because it has a connection with helping children and the migration interest of the young generation of Nepal,” said Nurbu Sherpa, the founder of Empower1, which organized the screenings in collaboration with Nep-Yorkers Production. “It couldn’t be more perfect and relatable.”
“Visa Girl” is a comedy about three Kathmandu guys who are obsessed with getting a visa to go to the United States. The girl of the title, played by Recha Sharma, is a Nepalese-born American resident who goes back to Nepal to support a non-profit organization for blind kids. After meeting the girl at a charitable event, the three guys try to woo her to see if they can win her heart and return with her to America. In the process, the men learn to appreciate their surroundings and the people in their life.
The film, which was written and directed by Prachanda Man Shrestha and features several songs, was well-received by the audience of both Nepalese and non-Nepalese.
“I felt quite emotional at the end,” said James Sarzottij, an American who has traveled to Nepal. “I liked the story and the message about love, helping the unprivileged and the community… It was well put together.”
Sarzottij added that he understands the culture of singing and dancing in the movies because of his familiarity with Bollywood films, “but I did miss out on some details of the cultural practices performed in the movie.”
Mukul Raj Rai, a musician who performed during the premiere, hailed the movie and emergence of a Nepali cinema. “I like the way they have conveyed a positive message about helping the unprivileged and loving your country,” he said.
The event also featured singer Phiroj Syangden, and an exhibit of paintings by Nepalese-born New York artist Reeta Chamling.
“The exhibition is based on the street children of Nepal,” said Chamling. “The themes of the paintings are smoke, windows and dawn. The street kids are prone to smoking due to their current life status; the window is the opening of opportunity, and dawn is the hope of a new life.”
According to UNICEF, these children may have lost their families through war or illness. Some of them have been abandoned because they had become too much of a burden, or else ran away from abusive, poverty-stricken families. The children are at the highest risk of murder, constant abuse and inhumane treatment, and they often resort to petty theft and prostitution for survival.
“I started this foundation because I genuinely want to help the kids in Nepal,” said Sherpa. “They deserve to see a better future, and if I could do anything at all in order to make their dreams possible, I will consider my life having some worth.”
Tenzing Sherpa, the master of ceremonies, was thrilled at the response.“The 300 seats were almost full and I saw how the crowd supported not only the movie but our organization,” said Sherpa, a student at CUNY’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and a recent winner of the CUNY-wide annual speech competition.
“I am positive this will open the door for more Nepali cinema,” he added, “and for organizations like ours to come together and organize more events like this in the future.”