FLMTQ: Some of the most stunning visuals in both films are of Nepal's rarely-seen natural landscapes. What was it like to film in these remote landscapes, and what obstacles did you encounter along the way?
DR: During the process of getting White Sun prepared and funded, two devastating earthquakes and several massive after-shocks struck Nepal on April 25 and May 17, 2015. The quakes caused not only enormous loss of life and infrastructural damage; they also revealed profound political and societal fault lines. Given the situation post-quake, we decided to push the shoot 6 months.
Our first choice for a mountain village location was destroyed by the earthquake. It had already taken us a long time to figure out where we were going to shoot. It was not easy— on a limited budget— to find the right village in terms of logistics as well as technical and artistic requirements. I wanted to use a mostly handheld camera to communicate the physical efforts of the characters. I didn't want the feeling of sitting back and watching the characters. I wanted the audience to experience walking with them. So I was very selective about the search for the ideal mountain path, for when the funeral procession goes down toward the river. It was a difficult task to find a place I liked that was not logistically impossible to shoot. I kept hiking until I found what you see in the film.
For shooting in the mountains, I was prepared to minimize the use of lighting equipment because of the lack of roads and available electricity. My DoP preferred the Red Dragon camera, given its smaller size and low-light sensitivity. But some lighting was still required, and even a small generator on that mountain path needed 10 porters at a time! So our crew was sometimes 80 people when we needed extras for crowded village scenes.
But just as we were going to the shoot our only import border with India got blocked and we were left without cooking gas or fuel for our generator and transportation. We were forced to cook with firewood for over 80 people, which slowed our process down. We were buying fuel in black markets, a few liters here and there, and transporting secretly to the mountain. Some nights when the light had finished, we would start shooting and there would be no fuel left! It was exhausting. A 35 day shoot turned into 47 days, and our budget went up. We had to make a lot of compromises like cutting down the crew to just 11 people, and figuring out different means and places to shoot less expensively. I was producing while directing, and it became a nightmare.
But thankfully we were able to finish. And given the way the film has travelled, the team is happy. We can now almost forget, what happened back then!
FLMTQ: Are you working on any new projects, and if so, can you tell us a bit about them?
DR: I'm developing a police procedural, a political thriller, that is currently titled Raja. The film is set in a Nepali town in the midst of massive protest at the India-Nepal border and will explore the Madhesi community (a dark-skinned community, which I come from) with our detective, learning the truth behind the violent protests through his eyes. These protests have already claimed over 100 lives. I believe this exchange of point-of-views could become something beautiful, not only for Nepalis, but for people around the world as race, discrimination, and national borders are topics of great importance for communities everywhere right now.