It’s not everywhere that you would see a sky littered with bodies, attached to large bright parachutes gliding softly to the ground. This is a common sight however in Pokhara, Nepal the paragliding capital of the world and it’s easy to see why with picturesque backdrops of the Himalayas and mountain lakes. This popular adventure destination is where director Dekel Berenson situates his short film, Ashmina.
Titled after the protagonist of the film, we follow 13- year-old Ashmina who works hard for tips folding and packing parachutes for adventure tourists. Unlike her brother, she doesn’t go to school. Instead she delivers the money she earns to her family and can only hope for the day she might have the opportunity to learn.
Despite the travel commercial potential of Berenson’s wide landscape shots, it is abundantly clear that the aim of Ashmina’s story is to uncover the harsh realities associated with your thrill seeking vacation. Positioned as a silent voyeur we watch as tourists loudly contest the amount of money Ashmina is owed, whilst she is only feet away. The handheld cinematography and unwavering long takes create an uncomfortable atmosphere that you cannot escape from.
The complex representation of the tourists forces you to see yourself within them, initially compassionate but not immune to others perceptions of the young children who work on the mountain day in and day out. The minimal script calls for reflection and revaluation of the immense privilege that any one who even gets to go on holiday, holds. Ashmina commands respect on behalf of the individuals native to Pokhara and uncomfortably so.
Berenson creates a visually stunning social realist short in which the bleak undertones are almost as shocking as it’s dark ending.