By Graciano Clause
York College’s journalism program welcomed 2014 graduate Bimina Ranjit as she presented her award winning documentary about a vanishing language and culture in Nepal on April 11.
Ranjit, a Nepal-born journalist presented the documentary Reviving Nepal Bhasa accompanied by co-writer and director Sam Shakya in room 2A04. The 30-minute documentary highlights the culture and language of an indigenous group of people called Newar. The Newar people are considered the original settlers of Kathmandu valley. Many of the ancient wonders like the art and architecture seen in the documentary was attributed to them. However, in present times the Newar culture and language is slowly vanishing and was further impacted by an earthquake last April.
Ranjit and Shayka made the documentary in the hopes of preserving the culture and raising awareness about all threatened languages and cultures around the world.
“This documentary is not about me being a journalist, it’s a passion driven project about my culture and language,” said Ranjit.
Shakya and Ranjit are both Nepali-Americans who collaborated to help bring awareness to the crisis in Nepal. Ranjit, who graduated from York two years ago, could have taken on a journalism related path here in America, but chose not to.
“I told myself I’m going to graduate with my degree here at York in journalism but, I wasn’t familiar with the New York City area so I said I’m going to build a branch for myself,” said Ranjit.
Ranjit and Shakya decided to make an example of Newar culture by spreading the message about near extinction due to globalization. There are 473 indigenous languages around the world that are identified as endangered, according to The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. When Shakya and Ranjit were in the process of producing footage and finding a specific narrative for the film, they said it was difficult because there were languages that they could not translate.
“It was kind of like a research paper only in visual form, and you don’t want to mess anything up,” said Shakya.
The two managed to make the project using their own funds which included travel expenses, equipment rentals, editing and production expenses. Even though it was quite a struggle for them, they said that was not the biggest obstacle.
“Balancing the history was difficult because Nepal is politically unstable and you don’t want to give the wrong message out because you covered a certain aspect of Nepal and not the rest,” said Shakya.
The film also highlighted the conflict between the impact of modernization and globalization and saving an intangible tradition for a generation that is starting to become out of reach.
“You’ll see that the young generation now are so good in English because of the urban foreign culture has really influenced them to be cool like Americans with the latest trend, whether it be Hip-Hop or something else,” Ranjit said.
Ranjit said that English has strictly become the trend. She said Nepali has been spoken less, and Nepal Bhasa is barely spoken. Newars speak Nepal Bhasa, which is a different language than that of the rest of the national language of Nepali.
Not only did Shakya and Ranjit travel the Kathmandu Valley, but they also visited Newar communities in Oregon and New York. They do not plan to stop spreading awareness after this project. They have future plans to produce more films to help inform the world about the consequences of losing a language.