Sometimes all it takes to set a film apart is a distinctive milieu. In Deepak Rauniyar’s White Sun, the setting is a remote village in Nepal during the aftermath of the civil war between the Maoists and the Nepalese monarchy. The inciting event is simple: the death of the village chieftain, which sets into motion the arduous task of performing proper funeral rites on the body. “Customs exist for a reason… We can’t just forget everything,” says one of the town elders, despite the evident impracticality of the situation. It’s this tension between “tradition” and “progress” that drives White Sun, which Rauniyar explores through various conflicts: generational, political, personal, and otherwise.
The chieftain’s Maoist son, Chandra, returns to the village for the funeral rites; his former lover, Durga, plans to marry Chandra’s Royalist-leaning brother, in an attempt to legitimize her daughter, who in turn thinks that Chandra is her father (although he is not); Maoists and royalists maintain an uneasy coexistence. All this is captured with an admirable physicality, which is never more evident than during the funeral procession, delivered in a series of precisely timed, tension-maximizing shots. Given the film’s overall accumulation of incident, however, White Sun at times feels both schematic and contrived, most notably in the climax, during which various story threads ludicrously converge in a violent standoff. But there’s something to be said for simply being immersed in the fascinating dynamics of this completely foreign narrative, all the way up to its satisfying conclusion—a pointed generational shift that’s at once open and resolute. It bodes well for the future in more ways than one.
Published as part of New Directors/New Films 2017 | Dispatch 1.