Film Review: Shepherds of Naar (2022): Paradise, Tradition, and Hardship
"The approach of the filmmaker is formal and exhibits her ability to connect with the people of the Naar village and their stories", writes Dipankar Sarkar.
Dipankar Sarkar, a distinguished Indian film critic and esteemed alumnus of the esteemed Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) Pune, pens his thoughts on the cinematic work titled "Shepherds of Naar".
Asmita Shrish’s Shepherds of Naar moves through the silence between the echoes with a calm serenity as it documents the challenges the shepherds of Naar village, in Nepal, face in upholding their 2000-year-old traditions. It provides insight into the firmly ingrained cultural practices that have supported these shepherds for centuries as well as shows how the inhabitants are attempting to survive in the unnerving snowy wilderness of the terrain. Set in the uninhabited northern region of the Annapurna massif, the narrative offers a compelling exploration of their struggles and the harsh realities of living in such an oppressive setting that displays a person's capacity for adaptability and endurance, which are essential to their survival.
The Naar village comprises around 85 houses. But this serene region is prone to earthquakes, avalanches, and landslides. As the yaks are forced to graze at higher altitudes, the shepherds encounter treacherous terrain and thinner air, which poses a challenge to both the animals and themselves. At the same time, they also have to contend with the scarcity of resources such as water and vegetation, further complicating their already arduous journey. Moreover, the Annapurna Conservation Area projects do not allow the shepherds to hunt naar deer and snow leopards. As a result, more than hundreds of baby yaks are killed by the leopards. But despite these overwhelming problems, life goes on in the mountains.
The approach of the filmmaker is formal and exhibits her ability to connect with the people of the Naar village and their stories in such a way that not only sheds light on the harsh realities of their circumstances but also serves as a powerful reminder of the durability and strength that can be found within such fragile lives. Further, she manages to break down barriers and create a sense of intimacy that allows viewers to deeply understand and connect with the subject matter. The cinematography by Rashik Maharaj remains a key takeaway from watching this documentary. The vivid imagery not only showcases the breathtaking landscapes but also effectively conveys the emotions and struggles of the people of the region. Each frame is meticulously composed, creating a sense of awe and admiration for the natural world. The seamless integration of the interviews and aerial shots also enhances the viewer's connection to the environment, leaving a lasting impression that lingers in their mind.
The documentary serves as a poignant reminder of the urgent need to preserve and protect unique and distinctive traditions. It provides insight into the intricate indigenous cultures of that region of the world, which the majority of us are unaware of, let alone their social conditions. We become interested in knowing about them because we want to learn more about the demons they had to battle on a regular basis. When we watch them, we enter their world and develop a deep respect for their resilience and connection to the land.
At the 6th South Asian Short Film Festival organized by the Federation of Film Societies of India Eastern Region, Shepherds of Naar won the Satyajit Ray Golden Award for the Best Documentary.
You can watch the documentary on YouTube: