Private Project

I Am Belmaya [75min]

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

'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.

Belmaya, dominated from all quarters, is desperate for independence. Born a Dalit, orphaned aged 9, barely educated, and trapped in an abusive marriage with a baby daughter, Belmaya, 21, has given up hope of finding happiness.

Rewind to 2006, when Belmaya, at 14, participated in a photo project at a girls’ home in Pokhara. A feisty student, she was keen to change her discriminatory world through photography. But that window closed when the home locked away her camera.

Now she grasps the chance to train in documentary filmmaking training. Picking up the camera once more, her old spark returns. But are her resentful husband and conservative community ready for this?

As Belmaya grows in confidence and ability, she turns from subject to co-director of her story. But in 2015, after her first job filming the Gurkha 200th anniversary celebrations, the great earthquake strikes and all work comes to a halt.

Belmaya is determined not to give up. In 2016 she completes her graduation film, Educate Our Daughters, a personal insight into education for girls in Nepal. Her film goes on to win hearts and awards, taking Belmaya to places she never dreamed she would go.

Belmaya's own films can be viewed here:

  • Sue Carpenter
    There's Something About Molly, Alice and Nana (short docs), The Wonderful Walk (29')
  • Belmaya Nepali
    Educate Our Daughters, Rowing Against the Flow (short docs)
  • Sue Carpenter
    There's Something About Molly, Alice and Nana (short docs), The Wonderful Walk (29')
  • Christopher Hird, Dartmouth Films
    The End of the Line, The Divide, In the Shadow of War, Eating Animals
  • Sue Carpenter
  • Laxcha Bantawa
    Asst Producer & Asst Editor
  • Marie-Anne Fischer
  • Ruth Knight
    Sound Editor
  • Vanya Tomova
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Feature
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 15 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    November 18, 2020
  • Production Budget:
    65,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United Kingdom
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
    English, Nepali
  • Shooting Format:
    FHD, 4K
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Global Health Film Festival
    United Kingdom
    December 1, 2020
    World premiere
  • Royal Anthropological Institute Film Festival
    Bristol (online)
    United Kingdom
    March 19, 2021
Distribution Information
  • Dartmouth Films
    Country: United Kingdom
    Rights: Internet, Video on Demand, Theatrical
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 40metre community mural. Sue co-founded Asha Nepal, supporting trafficked women in Nepal. In 2006-07 she lived in Pokhara, running the My World, My View 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.

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 made me trust in the process of documentary filmmaking, and 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