Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"With an intense central performance from newcomer Dikshya Karki, this is a film about the people whose lives pass by unseen."

Ashmina is 13. She's lucky to have a job, her parents tell her, and it's true that a lot of people in Nepal are struggling. But every day she watches rich people swoop down from the sky, people who barely even notice her as she folds up their chutes, and she's not impressed by the notion that she should be grateful for their pocket change.

Pokhara, in the foothills of the Himalayas, is often described as the paragliding capital of the world. To tourists it's a place of outstanding natural beauty. To Ashmina it's a prison. She wants to go to school like her brother; she wants to be allowed a little discretionary income instead of having to hand it all over to her father at the end of the day. Even wanting something as simple as an ice cream can get her in trouble, and strict rules are backed up with violence. The pale sky is enormous but she remains bound to the earth.

One day, her resentment will grow too strong to be contained any longer.

With an intense central performance from newcomer Dikshya Karki, this is a film about the people whose lives pass by unseen, constrained by poverty, the class system and traditional gender roles. There's something about Ashmina that makes her seem more real and vital than anyone around her but it's likely that will make very little difference to her fate. Director Dekel Berenson keeps the camera close in the narrow confines of her home, a world away from the splendour of the mountains, adding to the sense of claustrophobia. Her choice, when it comes, is something we might have found appalling had we seen it in isolation. It's still horrific but after spending 15 minutes in her company, most viewers will understand it.

Walking across a flat field framed by mountains, Ashmina looks, for a moment, tall and proud, but the camera passes her by.

Reviewed on: 30 Nov 2019
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Ashmina packshot
A 13-year-old girl spends her working life helping others have fun, but longs for more.

Director: Dekel Berenson

Writer: Dekel Berenson

Starring: Dikshya Karki, Prakat Pageni, Sadhana Bhandari

Year: 2018

Runtime: 15 minutes

Country: Nepal


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