×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Fairytale of Kathmandu

Provocative in both content and technique, "Fairytale of Kathmandu" is ostensibly about a renowned Gaelic poet, Cathal O Searcaigh, but is equally about the doc's director, Neasa Ni Chianain, for whom the making of the film was an idol-smashing experience.

Provocative in both content and technique, “Fairytale of Kathmandu” is ostensibly about a renowned Gaelic poet, Cathal O Searcaigh, but is equally about the doc’s director, Neasa Ni Chianain, for whom the making of the film was an idol-smashing experience and rite of passage. Considering the film’s length and look, arthouse distribution is possible, but cable seems more of a certainty.

Re-creations can be the bane of documentary watchers everywhere — inherently artificial, they can feel downright false, depending on how they’re handled. But what the young Ni Chianain is attempting to do with her “Fairytale” is something else — emotional recreation: When she follows her mentor, O Searcaigh, to his “spiritual home” of Nepal, she hopes to capture the poet in what he considers his adopted village, where he has sponsored the educations of several young men, and is treated with an entirely different kind of reverence than he gets at home (where he is a celebrated writer, as well as a self-acknowledged gay man in smalltown Ireland). What she finds are villagers who treat the poet as something just short of a deity. He’s a hero; she’s an acolyte.

If the reader’s red lights are already flashing, it’s small wonder. But Ni Chianain feigns naivete in her narration, even as she subtly reveals truths to her viewer — a boy’s worried look, the disdain on the face of the wife of a man O Searcaigh has “adopted”; the question of a gift bicycle. Even as she shows herself to be in denial, the viewer is coming to know the truth about the poet’s relationships with his “proteges.”

There are several ethical conundrums here, including the question of whether O Searcaigh gets sandbagged by participating in a film that ultimately outs him. But what could he have expected? The armchair psychologist has to conclude that he wanted to be found out, and that Ni Chianain was merely a vehicle. The age of sexual consent in Nepal is 16 and so are the boys involved, but there’s certainly an issue of maturity here, as well as moral questions about power, money and what constitutes coercion.

That pedophilia is currently so present in Western consciousness will bring some audiences to suspect O Searcaigh’s motives from the start; others may go along with Ni Chianain’s gambit until her visual storytelling forces them to part company with her. Having assembled the film well after her own epiphany, Ni Chianain is doing something akin to subterfuge — she’s placed her onscreen persona in a time pre-revelation and wants her own shattered illusions to be part of her aud’s experience. But she isn’t a fool either; her visual asides and the looks on the faces of the boys she photographs show that she knows that we know what’s going on.

Finally, Ni Chianain has a confrontation with O Searcaigh that’s somewhere in the vicinity of blood-curdling, and the viewer is left with a few questions. But “Fairytale of Kathmandu” (with its double-entendre-ish title) is a highly emotional trip into a complex relationship, and a glimpse into the vagaries of third-world sex tourism.

Production values are adequate.

Fairytale of Kathmandu

U.K.

Production: A Vinegar Hill Northern Ireland production in association with RTE and Northern Ireland Screen, with the participation of the Irish Film Board (International sales: Vinegar Hill Prods.) Produced by David Rane.   Directed by Neasa Ni Chianain.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), Tristan Monbureau; editor, Una Ni Dhonghaile; music, Arnaud Ruest; sound, Guillaume Beauron; sound designer/editor, Reto Stamm; associate producer, Deaglan O Mochain. Reviewed at Intl. Documentary Festival Amsterdam, Nov. 26, 2007. Running time: 60 MIN. (English, Irish dialogue)

More Film

  • Ari Emanuel Endeavor

    Endeavor IPO Filing Offers Details of Company's Financials, Leadership Pay Packages

    Endeavor’s IPO filing Thursday offers a hard look at the company’s financial performance during the past three years during a period of rapid growth for the company that’s home to UFC, WME, Professional Bull Riders and a clutch of other assets. Endeavor is generating solid free cash flow from operations and healthy adjusted earnings for [...]

  • Inside amfAR's Cannes Gala

    Inside amfAR's Cannes Gala: Mariah Carey, Kendall Jenner and Tiffany Trump

    Kendall Jenner caused a commotion when she arrived. Tiffany Trump went unrecognized until a member of the press pointed her out as she made her way down the carpet. And Mariah Carey flew in to perform a couple of songs. Welcome to this year’s AmfAR Gala Cannes, the AIDS organization’s annual — and largest — [...]

  • 'Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo' Review: Abdellatif

    Cannes Film Review: 'Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo'

    A simple but somehow atypical shot opens Abdellatif Kechiche’s new film: a serene closeup of a young woman’s face, as seen through the camera lens of Amir, a budding photographer still finding his perspective. Her expression is ambiguously tranquil, her long hair lightly rustled by a humid breeze, all softly lit by a sinking afternoon [...]

  • Crown Vic

    Thomas Jane's Police Thriller 'Crown Vic' Sells to Screen Media (EXCLUSIVE)

    Screen Media has bought North American rights to writer-director Joel Souza’s police crime-thriller “Crown Vic,” starring Thomas Jane and Luke Kleintank. The distributor closed terms during the Cannes Film Festival amid a competitive bidding situation between seven other suitors. Screen Media plans to release the pic this fall. “Crown Vic” premiered in April at the [...]

  • Colleen Bell

    Colleen Bell Replaces Amy Lemisch as California Film Commission Director

    Veteran entertainment executive and ambassador Colleen Bell will replace Amy Lemisch as director of the California Film Commission. Bell, who was appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday, has worked as a consultant since 2017. She was the U.S. ambassador to Hungary from 2014 to 2017. She held several positions at Bell-Phillip Television Productions, including [...]

  • Jon Feltheimer

    Lionsgate Posts Loss, Underperforms Wall Street Expectations

    Lionsgate has posted a quarterly loss and its revenues and operating income have come in under Wall Street projections, despite growth from its premium cable channel, Starz. The studio reported a net loss of $24 million, or 11 cents a share, with adjusted operating income of $103 million for its fourth fiscal quarter ended March [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content