Nepal Oscar Contender Soongave

Naturalized French director adds to controversy

HONG KONG – “Soongava – Dance of the Orchids,” a lesbian romance, has been selected to represent Nepal in the foreign-language Academy Award race.

The film’s selection was unveiled Sunday by Laxminath Sharma, a veteran film-maker and member of Nepal’s Oscar selection committee, at an event in Anamnagar.

Sharma revealed that the committee had assessed three other films “Sanguro,” “Badhsara” and “Sirish Ko Phool” before finally selecting the Subarna Thapa-directed picture.

“Soongava” recounts the secret love story between a teacher and a dance which comes to light when the parents of one announce that they have found a suitable boy for their daughter to marry. The all-female romance is seen as a challenge to Hindu traditions.

The film reportedly did little business in Nepal where it was released on Jan 4, 2013 . But it was programmed extensively on the international festival circuit, with stops including Palm Springs, the World Film Festival in Montreal, the Bologna Lesbian festival, the Toronto LGBT festival, the Int’l Hamburg festival and the Int’l Film Festival of Young Directors in France.

Although Academy rules do not require the director to be a national of the submitting country, the director’s citizenship has stirred a degree of controversy in Nepal. Sharma was born in Kathmandu, but is resident in France and recently took on French nationality.

“Soongava” was produced by French companies Rapsodie Production and veteran producer Raphael Berdugo’s Cite Films with Nepal’s Ami Films.

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