Subarna Thapa's film benefits from nice dance sequences and exotically unfamiliar locales, but is otherwise a rather by-the-numbers coming-out narrative and, sadly, includes what feels like a prerequisite tragic ending.

An aspiring dancer falls in love with her best femme friend in the deadly solemn “Soongava: Dance of the Orchids,” reportedly the first Nepali feature to deal with same-sex relationships (though the Himalayan nation has implemented some of Asia’s most gay-friendly legislation since 2007). Male scribe-helmer Subarna Thapa’s film benefits from nice dance sequences and exotically unfamiliar locales, but is otherwise a rather by-the-numbers coming-out narrative and, sadly, includes what feels like a prerequisite tragic ending. Queer events will nonetheless want a look.

Gorgeous Diya (Deeya Maskey) comes from a well-off family that informs her of arranged-marriage plans just as she’s taken her relationship with her BFF, working-class teacher Kiran (Nisha Adhikari), to the next level. After a lot of tortured back-and-forth and numerous soapy twists, the lovers move in together in Kathmandu, though their ordeal is far from over. Unfortunately, the well-intentioned pic’s highly melodramatic (if tonally very serious) plotting and focus on a conservative, family-oriented society won’t do much to convince local queer youths that it does get better. Acting and tech credits are passable.

Soongava: Dance of the Orchids

Nepal-France

Production

A Rapsodie Prod., Ami Films, Cite Films production. Produced by Virginie Lacombe, Raphael Berdugo, Subarna Thapa. Directed, written by Subarna Thapa.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Sara Cornu; editor, Sylvie Gadmer; music, Sylvain Morizet; sound (Dolby Digital) Bruno Tarriere. Reviewed at Palm Springs Film Festival (World Cinema Now), Jan. 10, 2013. (Also in 2012 Montreal World Film Festival.) Running time: 84 MIN.

With

Deeya Maskey, Nisha Adhikari, Saugat Malla, Bashundara Bhushal, Nirmal Nisar, Rajendra Man Shakya, Laxmi Giri, Sunita Thakura, Bharat Maharjan, Naswa Joshi, Subarna Thapa. (Nepali, Nepal Basha, English dialogue)

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