A former Maoist rebel struggles to reintegrate with his unwelcoming community and move beyond a painful past, in this beautiful social drama from Nepali filmmaker and TIFF Talent Lab alumnus Deepak Rauniyar.
This small Nepali village may appear to be nestled peacefully in the countryside, but it still bears wounds from the country's decade-plus-long civil war. In White Sun, director Deepak Rauniyar explores the various perspectives of the village's inhabitants, finding in their lives a quiet poetry that speaks of collective memory and pain.
Young Pooja hopes to meet Agni, the man she thinks is her father, who left before her birth to fight with the Maoists against the pro-government forces. When Agni's father dies, he returns to the village for the first time in years in order to take part in the funeral rites. But this is no prodigal return: when Agni and Pooja's mother Durga are reunited, they revisit contentious old issues, and there is enough anti-Maoist sentiment in town to make Agni an unwelcome visitor. The townsfolk's adherence to restrictive traditions, and their observance of the caste system that Agni fought to eradicate, only create more tensions — which finally erupt at the funeral in an altercation between Agni and his brother. With the rites stalled indefinitely, the town is in a state of limbo. Agni continues to alienate everyone except Pooja and a local orphan boy, and the two children increasingly seem like the only hope for moving forward from the painful past.
Cinematographer Mark Ó'Fearghail captures Nepal's natural beauty in astonishing imagery, and Rauniyar (a 2013 TIFF Talent Lab alumnus) emphasizes the drama in the quotidian. White Sun evokes an entire nation's turmoil, showing how the scars of war never quite heal, even long after the conflict has officially ended.