An Interview with Kesang Tseten (Director)
We Live in Two Realms; in Karma and in Reason
Q: I heard that you were asked by a NGO (Nongovernmental Organization) to make a film with the “bridge” as the theme. Why did you focus mostly on the villagers?
KT: I was asked to make this because of a bridge, but I was able to make this film in comparative freedom. I wanted to perform well in making a film that would appeal to the interest of the viewers. I didn’t want to make a realism-only film for the NGO. So I thought “Who is going to receive and use this bridge?” and came to a realization that it is the village and the villagers who will use it. That is why the focus was on the villagers in my film. That village surrounded by mountains is also enclosed by the river on three sides. Somebody from the village would get killed just about every time the river would overflow. This village had some serious problems that needed to be addressed. Children would walk two hours one-way on a treacherous mountain path to get to school. The villagers hoped that this bridge would bring some “healing” for the “pains” they were experiencing on a daily basis. At the same time, they probably put a lot of hope in the material wealth that the bridge might bring into their village life. These villagers are Tamang, a large people group in Nepal, but within the caste system, they are extremely poor and have been continuously ignored by society. But they came to realize that they are able to contribute to society, and gain some wealth through the bridge. This area is predominantly Buddhist, but because of both cultural and monetary poverty, they have not been able to get any help from their religion. Because of their poverty, they have been unable to give offerings, or get prayer from the shaman. These situations became a big burden and a cause of dissatisfaction. They probably were acting under the conception that “we cannot gain anything because we are unable to do anything.” Within that context, Christianity, which offers “salvation to all who believe” was accepted quite naturally by the villagers. Of course it is not a simple choice between Buddhism and Christianity. At times they feel saved by faith, but on the other hand they are faced with the hard facts . . . Yes, human beings live in two realms; in karma (or destiny) and in reason.
Q: What kind of effects will the bridge have to the villagers?
KT: Well, it’s simple to see the contribution it will make. Both time and distance will be saved through using the bridge, and now they will not need to worry so much about the weather. It will bring lots of measurable physical advantages. The fact that people will not have to risk their lives as often as before is going to bring “healing” too. Furthermore, the fact that the villagers themselves volunteered their time to make this bridge has empowered them to control and choose their own destiny. This must have been encouraging to them as humans. But when you take a look at their region and country, you cannot say that it is all wonderful. Nepal has experienced eleven years of war, and they also were part of the Gulf War. There are many elements of social anxiety left from that time. That’s why I didn’t want to end this film with a perfect happy ending that forecasts only a bright future. I wanted the last scene to portray these worries by including the images of the fog and the murky river water. I wanted people to sense that this film is not a conglomeration of ideals and sentimentalism. Rather, I would like for them to feel that this film values personalities, and includes both the inner conflicts of individuals and the society-level conflicts experienced by all mankind.
Dhanyabaad (Nepalese), Thuje che (Tibetan), Thank you.
(Compiled by Tsukamoto Junko)
Interviewers: Tsukamoto Junko, Takashima Yukie / Interpreter: Takahashi Aiko / Translator: Paul Mikaelsen
Photography: Kaneko Yuji / Video: Kaneko Yuji / 2007-10-08