A story 14 years in the making, set in patriarchal Nepal, following an uneducated young woman's transformational journey from subjugated wife to documentary filmmaker.

Dominated by her husband, her family and society, Belmaya is desperate for independence. But in much of Nepal, men rule and women obey. Here, in one of the poorest nations on earth, women are daughters, wives, mothers - but rarely individuals in their own right.

Born a Dalit (the lowest, ‘untouchable’ caste), orphaned at the age of 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 a feisty teenager living in a girls’ home in Pokhara, participated in a photo project. Impassioned and inspired, 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 old 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?

Director Sue Carpenter says

“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.”

I Am Belmaya


1h 21m

Director: Sue Carpenter, Belmaya Nepali

UK Release: Premiere at Curzon Soho 4th October, 6.20pm and is released in cinemas and on demand at Curzon Home Cinema and BFI Player from 15th October.