Children of the Snow Land
The cruelty of kindness and an alien concept of love dominate Zara Balfour and Marcus Stephenson’s coming-of-age documentary Children of the Snow Land.
The film follows three essentially orphaned teenagers, Nima, Tsering Deki and Jeewan, who return to their respective villages high in the Himalayan mountains to see their families for the first time in a decade. They are trekking dangerous terrain in the hope of answers for their abandonment, as well as an understanding of where they came from. The title is not only in reference to the mountain scenery featured, but also the name of the school – Snow Land – where the kids were left, and now receive an education thanks to charitable donations.
Snow Land is not a slick or polished documentary. It is often slow and repetitive. But it is raw and, at times, exceptionally beautiful. Love is a complex matter in the lives of these teenagers, but even more so in the minds of their families. “That is her love – she sends me away,” Tsering Deki comes to understand, providing a maturity beyond her years.
Each journey has its own heart – joy and sorrow often found in equal measure – though perhaps the saddest story is that of Nima, who hopes to find his father. Nima’s mother died two days after giving birth to him and his father dropped him at Snow Land and never returned. Nima also has the toughest trek of the three, risking ice-covered streams and freezing temperatures. Jeewan and Tsering Deki’s need for an understanding of familial love is equally as moving.
Another layer is added in one of the more tragic underlying themes of the film as Nima, Tsering Deki and Jeewan must face the uncertainty of what is behind them when the Nepal Earthquake of 2015 hits, potentially leaving their home in Kathmandu in ruins. Unable to contact Snow Land School on their journey, they can only hope their home and its occupants remain unharmed.
But the tragedy of the documentary is equalled with the warmth of family and the optimism of its subjects. “There is no such thing as an enemy in our village,” Nima summarises after reconnecting with his family. Children of the Snow Land is a display of humanity, loyalty and perhaps some of the most selfless acts achievable. A mediocre documentary style is salvaged by the charisma, charm and relentlessness of the film’s three stars.
Children of the Snow Land is released in select cinemas and on demand on 14th March 2019.
Watch the trailer for Children of the Snow Land here: