‘Children of the Snow Land’ is an extraordinarily moving, inspirational and absorbing documentary, filmed from the ‘roof of the world’ where families struggle and sacrifice everything to help their children.
From the age of 4 years old, children are sent to school in the city, hoping education means a better life. Unfortunately, this comes with the likelihood they will not see their parents and families again for 12 years. Children of the Snow Land documents the life experiences of children born in the High Himalayas of Nepal and follows the journey of three students as they embark on a perilous trek back to their respective villages.
One of the directors is Zara Balfour. Zara is an award-winning director, producer and writer with 18 years experience in all forms of documentary, film and content, specialising in films about the world we live in and people and cultures worldwide. She has filmed in over 20 countries, often documenting community projects in developing countries.
She began her career as an actress before moving behind the camera as producer and director. Zara set up Picture on the Wall Productions and has won awards at film festivals including Berlin Film Festival (winner of the Prix UIP for Best European Short Film), London Film Festival, European Film Awards, Telluride, Warp Records v Creative Review Awards and Cannes Lions. I was fortunate to catch up with her ahead of the film’s general release and ask a few questions.
What support did you get from the Nepalese Government or national agencies?
We didn’t ask for support in the beginning but the school organised a fundraising gala screening in Kathmandu after we completed the film. The Mayor of Kathmandu and the Vice President of Nepal attended. Now we have their support and we hope we can facilitate further fundraising events.
Was the filming of the documentary much of a logistical challenge?
The villages are off the grid. It was only ever two film crew plus a guide, porters and the children. Half the time it was me and co-director Marcus Stephenson or I was accompanied by our cameraman/photographer Mark Hakansson.
We used solar charger kits and backpacks, enabling us to film in difficult and remote areas. We did have porters and donkeys to aid our travel but the journey was treacherous. At times the donkeys would panic in the face of treacherous river crossings. All the rivers start in Nepal and head down towards southern Asia. Some of the dangerous moments aren’t on film and I am scared for the children going back home this year because they won’t be accompanied. It isn’t an easy journey and it’s tougher than it’s shown on film.
What about a sequel and is there anything you would do differently?
I would like to revisit the children in future to see how their lives have changed. Perhaps film them in a similar style to Michael Apted’s ‘Seven Up’ series, which followed the lives of fourteen British children since 1964. On a technical level, a bigger crew and more resources would have been nice.
So what are the next steps?
The documentary will be streaming on demand and on general release from 14thMarch 2019 at Curzon Cinemas in the UK, Ireland and Malta.
The aims of Children of the Snow Land are:
To show a global audience what some young people have to do for an education – and allow the Children of the Snow Land to inspire people around the world with their tenacity, grace, courage and wisdom.
To increase awareness and help improve the lives of Himalayan children attending school far from home by helping them to stay connected with their families, and to ensure they make full use of the education for which they have made such a sacrifice. The film has already inspired donations of over $30,000 to directly help the children.
To encourage development of the Himalayan villages so that eventually children won’t have to be separated from their families to achieve an education.
For further information please visit the Children of the Snow Land website http://childrenofthesnowland.com/our-aims