“I capture society in films”
“Nearly a year ago, Denise Marika, American visual artist was walking on the small lane in Thimi. Somebody stopped her nearby an old well. She was planning to make a film on experience and emotions of disabled people. She was searching for the character with her assistant Ms. Manisha Gauchan. That stranger showed a house located in Dathu lane. Ms. Marika said all this while sitting in a cozy restaurant located in Kalanki, Kathmandu. “It was in that house, I met Milan Shrestha, who became disabled at nine months old” she said. Denise Marika has been associated with Central Department of Sociology/Anthropology. Drinking soothing ginger tea, she was trying to relax on the day of the strike since she could not shoot. The reason she started talking about Milan was because her assistant was showing the raw footage that she had shot that day. Ms. Marika pursued her Masters in Fine Arts in University of California and has widely travelled in Cambodia, Hong Kong, Scotland and Germany in the course of her work. “I want to show society in films, that is why I am drawn by stories of people like Milan”, she said. 20 year old Milan, who became disabled at nine months old, needs help from his parents and two sisters to sleep, to eat. He has never been able to go to school but learned to speak English by watching television. He is very interested in cricket. He does not believe in god, “If there was god, my situation would not be like this”, he says. He lives his life in bed but cares for much about his diabetic mother Harilaxmi always asking if she took her medicine or not. Ms. Gauchan, Marika’s assistant said that the reason Milan was part of the documentary was because Milan’s family is a model among families with disability. Ms. Gauchan, associated with an organization working for the human rights of the disabled, says that frequently families do not care about their disabled members. Milan’s family is a model for all. They care for their disabled family member with dignity. Two nurse sisters and his parents are always looking after him day and night. “At a time, when I was only meeting a dark side of disability, meeting Milan and his family helped me see the positive”, Marika shared. Her Assistant Manisha claims that Milan’s family can be a source of inspiration for all disabled families in the country. These people’s daily lives and their experiences are part of a documentary film entitled “Denied”, that Ms Marika is shooting. American Fulbright specialist Ms. Marika recently screened Denied: chapter one. It explores the stories of three disabled women who were struggling for their dignity despite the discrimination in society. The story of Maya Maharjan was heart wrenching. Maya, a wheel chair user had contacted Polio in childhood. She shared her story of domestic and sexual violence. She does not have big dreams. She sells peanuts near the Nepal Central Bank. She wants to save money and open a small shop in future. “They deserve love and dignity from society” Ms. Marika said, as she explained why she wanted to make a documentary on the disabled. “The least the artists like us can do is to create an awareness and understanding”, she said. An accomplished artist, who has done exhibitions and shows in dozens of reputed galleries in America and Europe, she revealed that her own experiences led her to this mission. “I myself was a victim of domestic violence”, she said. “That is why, it is not difficult for me to understand the deeper emotions of the characters”, said New Yorker Ms. Marika. She revealed that her mission in life is to continue to search for such stories and subjects. In the course of that search, she traveled to Cambodia a few years ago where she met Claire Bennett. Bennett was an NGO worked living in Nepal who has been the bridge to help Marika to come to Nepal. There she met the people that she was looking for. At a time when technology and the modern market is influencing all aspects of life, she believes that many things can be expressed through the means of visual art media. “I am surprised that visuals are not very much used in research in Nepal”, she said. That is why she is working with the Sociology/Anthropology department of Tribhuvan University to help academics learn the use of visual language. But as an artist, she is interested in developing the documentary, which she is structuring in three parts. “I am hoping to arrange for the third part to be directed by a Nepali filmmaker”, she said. She was flying back to New York in couple of days of time and said “I will coordinate and continue the work from there”. Then, she will be in Nepal again in coming May to show the stories of Milan, Maya, Namrata Adhikari, Dawa Sherpa to the world.