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Review: White Sun – Seto Surya (2016)

Director: | 89 minutes | , | Actors: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Each country has its own traditions to honor the dead. Where people in Madagascar have a famous ritual in which every few years the remains of their loved ones are dug up and sprinkled with wine or perfume, the inhabitants of a region in the Philippines do it differently: the corpses are hoisted in their Sunday clothes and placed on a chair. As if that wasn’t special enough, they also get a lit cigarette placed between their lips. While it is at least remarkable in the West for a deceased person to be hoisted through a window (for example, in the case of an overweight person), it is illegal in Nepal to carry recently deceased persons through the front door.

In “White Sun” (“Seto Surya”), the second feature by Nepalese Deepak Rauniyar, we witness such a ritual, which is bound by many rules. Chandra’s father, a former warrior in Nepal’s civil , has died in his bedroom. Chandra has not been to his native village for a long time, but returns as soon as possible when he learns of the death of his father, who was also the village chief. On the way he meets the homeless orphan Badri, who cannot be turned away from him. Upon returning home, Chandra finds his wife Durga and her daughter Pooja. Pooja, who longs to know who her dad is – she hopes Chandra – represents the cutest thing in this movie without a doubt. With her innocent, but at the same time curious look, she easily conquers a place in the hearts of the viewers.

Durga has been taking care of Chandra’s father Chitra all along, but she is not allowed to touch her father-in-law’s . So moving the body of Chitra takes quite some effort. This has partly to do with relationships. Chandra has a brother, Suraj, who is diametrically opposed to him politically. Suraj was loyal to the monarchy during the civil war, Chandra is more progressive and a strong supporter of the Maoists. While transporting Chitra’s body, the two brothers get into a heated argument, in which Suraj eventually leaves his father’s body and Chandra has to find other – strong – men who can help him carry it. On this quest he is joined by Pooja and Badri.

“White Sun” is a beautiful drama, in which the different social contrasts that Nepal knows are well expressed. The old generation versus the younger generation, conservatism versus progressivity, the lower castes versus the higher castes, the rights of men and women, it all becomes clear in an appealing story with credible characters. Add to that the fact that the surroundings are beautifully captured, and you can conclude that Deepak Rauniyar has made a film of which he can be proud. And the end is hopeful.

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