Chyanti [Short Film Review]

Note: the following review is that of  a preview work-in-progress screener 

chyanti-pic-5Who knows what the wind will bring? It is the hopes that keep us alive. Even if the hopes are made from the castle of false dreams. What could we possibly do?‘, sings this Nepalese street singer at the end of Chyanti.

Inspired by true events, Chyanti tells the story of a Nepalese family living in poverty in a remote village of the Mustang region. In the midst of the Maoist revolution, Ram (Shyam Khadka), a guerilla fighter, a father, and a husband returns home and does all it takes to feed his family, help his wife (Babita Tamang) send his daughter (Sangita Tamang) back to school and offer them a decent Dashain celebration – even if that means selling his 5-year-old’s best friend, Chyanti, the goat of the family.

Thought-provoking and heartbreaking, Chyanti is the latest short from Nepalese film director and former Gurkha soldier Veemsen Lama. It was produced by Tom Cullingham and Ashok Yadav, adapted from a script by Sampada Malla and interpreted by the very neat and breathtaking cinematography of DoP Arran Green.

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The most notable moment of the film surely is the journey to the market on which father, daughter, and goat embark, and during which the young girl keeps wondering and asking why they’re taking Chyanti with them. ‘She won’t be able to walk so long. She’ll get tired’, Sani innocently says. In these few scenes, the connection between father and daughter truly and emotionally comes out, leaving the audience in a sensitive vulnerability.

Once at the market, Ram goes see the goat seller (Kaushal Pandit) he noticed earlier on. He goes on his own first. He sets a price to sell the family goat to be able to buy a smaller one to sacrifice for Dashain, and some clothing for his daughter and his wife. After closing the deal, he arranges with the seller to sweeten the pill for his daughter… Sani then joins them, keeping her little goat close to her. The seller explains he’d like to send Chyanti to school with all of the other goats waiting in his cart, and promises the young girl he would bring her goat back to her next Dashain when she finishes her one-year schooling. What is this but a beautiful lie covering a very ugly truth?

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The authentic music by Ben Winwood and the solid story beautifully serves some universal themes of broken dreams and promises, but the acting feels a bit forced in certain scenes, which therefore seem uneven at times.

The story of Sani and his family ends with a hopeful 5-year-old girl, wishing for her friend Chyanti to come back very soon next Dashain. Hopes and dreams are what hold our lives together, even if – very often – those are eventually fading, if not crashed.

All in all, Chyanti is another very good piece of cinema, but unfortunately doesn’t possess the beautiful simplicity and innocence that are prevailing in Veemsen’s previous short film MAYA and that make it so very special.

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© Visuals by Javiya Films

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