the story behind DURGA, my short film in Nepal

Our film crew with Durga, her sister and her mother in November 2019.

I am currently directing and producing a short documentary film about female guide Durga Rawal in Nepal. More detailed info on the film can be found on our crowdfunding campaign page. Whenever I speak about DURGA: Forging a New Trail, the title of our film, I am typically asked how I came to know Durga and her story. For those interested, here’s the story behind the story.

My story with DURGA starts in 2015, when I was working for One World Play Project in Berkeley, California. Around the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, we launched and ran a marketing campaign called All Girls Can Play. Through the campaign, we collaborated with Women Win to give ultra-durable soccer balls to organizations working with girls and women in communities around the world.

Intrigued by Women Win’s global network in the female empowerment and gender equality space, I spent time on their website reading about their partner organizations and what each of them does. Empowering Women of Nepal, a nonprofit organization that trains and supports Nepalese women to become guides and work in tourism, caught my interest immediately for its connection to outdoor adventure as well as female empowerment and gender equality. I had never heard of an organization doing such work, or with such a mission, in the United States, let alone elsewhere in the world.

That week at work, I told my boss, who collaborated closely with me on our company’s storytelling about the impact of play, in all its forms, around the world, that I felt there was a story with EWN worth exploring, telling and sharing. She agreed, and while we never pursued that story at One World Play Project, the idea remained with me.

In 2017, I wrote a story for the REI Co-op Journal with EWN and 3 Sisters Adventure Trekking Company. At that time, I also planted the seed for a film with Lucky Chhetri, one of the organization and company’s founders. Since first learning about EWN and 3 Sisters, I felt a story on them—woven with Nepal’s rich culture, striking landscapes and strong sense of adventure—would lend itself so strongly to film.

Lucky and I remained in contact, and in 2018, I decided it was time to actually pursue this story, this dream of creating a short documentary film about EWN and 3 Sisters. In further considering the story, I decided it wasn’t necessarily interesting to tell the story of the organization and company but rather would be more compelling to tell the story of one of the young women who has trained with, been supported by and now works with them.

In talking with Lucky and considering the stories of the women EWN and 3 Sisters works with, I was struck by Durga Rawal’s story—particularly by her sheer will and determination to leave her hometown, create her own opportunities and pursue a life, and career, far different from anyone in her family and community.

Durga’s is a story of stepping out on her own in a mighty big way. There are certainly pieces of what she has done and is doing that resonate with me—and that I knew would resonate with others, too. Her story carries a message for all of us, female or male.

At my request, Lucky connected me with Durga. Through email, Facebook Messenger and video calls, Durga and I began talking to and getting to know one another and discussing how sharing her story on camera would look. As far as I know, there was never any hesitation on Durga’s end. I believe the only question was if we would actually follow through on this, if we would actually come to Nepal and film her story with her.

Since we first connected, Durga and I have remained committed to one another and the different roles we play in making it possible to share her story with an audience beyond the circles in which she runs. Throughout everything, without a doubt, I’ve also learned a lot from her—as well as others involved in this project.

Fast forward to 2019. Thanks to the generous and critical support of the following individuals, our crew traveled to Nepal in October and November to film the short documentary: Gordon Hopcian & Carol McKee; David Kilian; Dave & Sue Laabs; Bob & Janice McKee; Micky & Cindy Tschirhart; and Orin & Tina Mazzoni.

Our team spent two nonstop, beautiful, challenging and successful weeks in Pokhara and the Mugu District, where Durga grew up and where her family still lives. We captured what’s needed to create our film with Durga, her family, friends, community, the women at EWN and 3 Sisters and a handful of travelers.

Looking through my photos, reading my notes and reflecting on this experience, it all feels like a bit of a dream—to have spent that time in Nepal and to be bringing this story to life that’s been on my mind and in my heart, in one form or another, since 2015.

But I cannot see this through without you.

We are now so close to completing this film and sharing it with you—and the world. To do so, I need your financial support to push us through editing as well as release & distribution. I invite you to contribute to, and then share, our crowdfunding campaign today at https://ifundwomen.com/projects/durga-short-documentary-film.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for playing a role in making the telling and sharing of Durga’s story possible in this way. I’m so grateful for your belief in and support of what we’re creating.

With so much love & gratitude,
Emily

March 5, 2020

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