Private Project

I Am Belmaya

BEST DOCUMENTARY - UK Asian Film Festival
BEST DOCUMENTARY - Pame International Film Festival
JURY EQUALITY AWARD - Peloponnisos DocFest
AUDIENCE AWARD - Peloponnisos DocFest
BEST WOMEN FILMMAKER - Bharat International Film Festival, Maharashtra International Film Festival

'From He Named Me Malala to The Eagle Huntress and I Am Greta, we see that young women are taking charge of their own destinies.... Now we can add to this list the superb portrait of a young Nepali woman lifting herself out of subjugation through the means of photography and filmmaking, I Am Belmaya’ - UK Film Review

***** Morning Star
***** The Upcoming
**** Total Film
**** Sunday Times

'A daring and heartbreaking film, which fills one with hope and admiration. Its charm lies in its humour and sorrow, so deftly intermingled on the screen. Five shining stars from me” - Joanna Lumley

SYNOPSIS: A story 14 years in the making, set in Nepal, following an uneducated young woman's transformational journey from subjugated wife to documentary filmmaker. ‘A unique tale of women’s empowerment where the subject becomes the co-director of her own story.’

Dominated by her husband, family and society, Belmaya is desperate for independence. Born in a poor hill village in Nepal, a Dalit, orphaned aged nine, and trapped in an abusive marriage with a baby daughter, Belmaya at 21 has given up hope of finding happiness.

Rewind to 2006, when Belmaya, then 14 and living in a girls’ home in Pokhara, participated in a photo project. A natural feminist, full of passion and mischief, she was eager to change her discriminatory world through photography. But that window closed when the home locked away her camera.

Now she gets a second chance, this time to train in documentary filmmaking. Picking up the camera once more, her maverick spark returns. Determined to create a better life for her young daughter, Belmaya gains the skills and confidence to forge a new path. But are her resentful husband and conservative community ready for this? A profoundly moving and inspirational tale of rebellion, courage and hope, as Belmaya battles to change her story.

Belmaya's own films can be viewed here:

  • Sue Carpenter
    Short films: There's Something About Molly (2015), Alice and Nana (2016), The Wonderful Walk (2019)
  • Belmaya Nepali
    Educate Our Daughters, Rowing Against the Flow (short docs)
  • Sue Carpenter
  • Sue Carpenter
    There's Something About Molly (2015), Alice and Nana (2016), The Wonderful Walk (2019)
  • Christopher Hird, Dartmouth Films
    Producer / Executive Producer
    The End of the Line, The Divide, In the Shadow of War, Children of the Snow Land, Eating Animals
  • Bettina Kadoorie
    Executive Producer
    A Woman from Santiago, The Short History of the Long Road
  • Marie-Anne Fischer
  • Ruth Knight
    Sound Editor
  • Vanya Tomova
  • Laxcha Bantawa
    Assistant Producer & Assistant Editor
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Feature
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 20 minutes 41 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    January 15, 2021
  • Production Budget:
    55,000 GBP
  • Country of Origin:
    United Kingdom
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
    English, Nepali
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Global Health Film Festival
    United Kingdom
    December 1, 2020
    World Premiere (online)
    Official Selection
  • Royal Anthropological Institute Film Festival
    United Kingdom
    March 19, 2021
    Official Selection
  • UK Asian Film Festival
    United Kingdom
    May 27, 2021
    Physical world premiere
    Best Documentary
  • Peloponnisos International Documentary Festival
    April 16, 2022
    Audience Award - Best Foreign Documentary; Equality Award (winner of jury competition)
  • Bharat International Film Festival
    February 26, 2021
    Best Women Filmmaker
  • Maharashtra International Film Festival
    February 26, 2021
    Best Women's Film
  • Indian Panorama International Film Festival
    February 26, 2021
    Best Women Filmmaker
  • Great Asian World Cinema International Film Festival
    February 28, 2021
    Official Selection
  • WRPN Women's International Film Festival
    Lewes, Delaware
    United States
    April 25, 2021
    Award of Excellence
  • Kathmandu International Mountain Film Festival
    December 14, 2019
    Official Selection (preview version of film)
  • UNAFF (United Nations Association Film Festival)
    San Francisco
    United States
    October 27, 2021
    Official Selection
  • BIFA (British Independent Film Awards)
    United Kingdom
    2 nominations - Best Documentary, Raindance Discovery Award
  • One World Media Awards

    United Kingdom
  • Pame International Film Festival
    December 28, 2021
    Best Documentary
  • Ramsgate International Film and TV Festival
    United Kingdom
    June 6, 2021
    Official Selection
  • Foyle Film Festival
    United Kingdom
    April 24, 2021
    Official Selection
  • I Will Tell International Film Festival
    Fort Lauderdale
    United States
    September 6, 2021
    North American Premiere
    Official Selection
  • El Ojo Cojo Film Festival
    November 15, 2021
    Spanish premiere
  • Nepal Human Rights International Film Festival
    November 25, 2021
    Official Selection
  • Ethnofest
    November 25, 2021
    Greek Premiere
    Official Selection
  • GlobalGirl Media Film Festival
    United Kingdom
    March 19, 2021
    Special Screening
  • Mujerdoc
    March 3, 2022
  • Athena Film Festival
    New York
    United States
    March 12, 2022
    New York premiere
  • Indie Meme Festival
    Austin, Texas
    United States
    April 21, 2022
    Texas premiere
  • Borderlines Film Festival
    Knighton, Wales
    United Kingdom
    March 4, 2022
  • Everything UK Festival
    May 14, 2022
  • Herne Hill Free Film Festival
    United Kingdom
    May 20, 2022
  • Global Health Film Festival Australia
    Sydney and online
    August 16, 2022
    Australian premiere
    Official selection, opening film
  • Cine ONU / UN Cinema
    December 6, 2021
    Belgian premiere
    Special screening
  • UN Cinema
    September 26, 2022
    Austrian premiere
    Special screening
  • Jaipur International Film Festival
    January 7, 2023
Distribution Information
  • Tideturner Films
    Country: United Kingdom
    Rights: All Rights
Director Biography - Sue Carpenter

Sue has been involved in Nepal and women's rights for 20 years. A journalist and photographer, she moved into filmmaking in 2013. Her first short doc, There's Something About Molly, won Best Short Documentary at the Good Dog Film Festival in Sydney, 2016. She has gone on to make several short films including The Wonderful Walk (29', 2019) about the Guinness World Record-beating creation of a 40m community mural. Sue co-founded Asha Nepal, supporting trafficked women in Nepal. In 2006-2007 she lived in Pokhara, running a photo project, where she met Belmaya. Sue is a Trustee of GlobalGirl Media UK, empowering young women through digital media training. I Am Belmaya is her first feature-length film.

Co-Director - Belmaya Nepali

Born in a hill village near Pokhara, Nepal, to a low-caste family, Belmaya, 28, has had very little formal education. Orphaned at the age of 9, she moved to a home in Pokhara and was introduced to photography aged 14. She participated in exhibitions in Nepal and London and her work was included in a book, My World, My View. In 2014, aged 21, she started to learn documentary filmmaking. Educate Our Daughters, her graduation project and first short film, has been selected for 7 international film festivals, from Chicago and Toronto to the UK, and won 3 awards, including Best Short Film (UK Asian Film Festival) and Best Women's Film (Nepal Cultural International Film Festival). She was commissioned to make her second film, Rowing Against the Flow, on boatwomen in Pokhara, by Thomson Reuters Foundation, and her third film, Stronger, by UK Asian Film Festival. She lives with her daughter, Bipana, 9, in Pokhara.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

Injustice is invariably my chief motivator, particularly where women and children are denied their voice, or where a dominating force uses their power status to subjugate others. It has inspired me to write articles, set up charities and projects, and now to make films.

The conflict between speaking your truth and judiciously keeping your mouth shut strikes a particular chord for me. Having grown up in a traditional, male-dominated household in Britain, where emotions were held in, I identify with Belmaya’s desire to conform to what society expects of her, yet being unable to suppress what she fiercely feels.

In 2006, I went to live in Nepal for 9 months, where I led the My World, My View photo project. It was then that I met the spirited teenage Belmaya. It wasn’t until the evening I left Nepal that I saw her true vulnerability. She broke down in uncontrollable tears. It touched me deeply. I felt she’d never before been valued or championed. She remained on my mind over all our years apart, until we finally reconnected in 2014 and started filming her journey together.

I was determined that Belmaya should not be the passive subject of this documentary, but have an active role in the telling of her story. As she became a competent cameraperson, so she took more control of the filming, taking us behind closed doors to the heart of her life as a wife and mother.

Having the tools to tell her own story, along with the platform to express herself, has transformed Belmaya’s outlook. It has confirmed to me that we all need to be able to speak from our hearts and be heard. Above all, we need to have agency over our lives and our stories.

Sue Carpenter