Magic of the Himalayas

"Sunakali," about a Nepalese female soccer team, opens this year's Himalayan Film Festival on May 2, 2015
This year's Himalayan Film Festival is May 1-2 in San Francisco.

Three years ago, I was sitting on the outdoor patio of an organic tourist cafe three stories above the bustling streets of Kathmandu. I was enjoying a masala infused potato salad and an over sweetened iced coffee when I heard the very familiar sound of a Californian accent. Curious—“Are you from California?’ I asked, striking up a conversation with Kendra Capece and her friend who were enjoying their iodine washed salads at the table next to me.

The right question to the right person at the right time was the true catalyst of the Himalayan Film Festival here in San Francisco. A festival that launched in May 2013, only four months after that chance meeting in Kathmandu.

Kendra and I teamed up with Human Rights Film Focus Nepal and an amazing lineup of sponsors to present the first annual festival. We were very ambitious in the first year. We had 15 films, screened over 5 days in three cities. The festival was a huge success seeing blanket media coverage, selling out screenings and rallying a community of supporters.

That first festival wouldn’t have happened without dedicated volunteers and a group of organizations who believed in our mission. Center for Asian American Media and The Asia Foundation were our earliest financial supporters. KALW radio and East Bay Express were our media sponsors while organizations like Amnesty International, Curry Without Worry and Bay Area Friends of Tibet provided critical resources to make the festival happen.

This year, we will celebrate opening night of the 3rd Annual Himalayan Film Festival at the Ninth Street Independent Film Center sponsored by CAAM. This year’s festival starts on May 1, 2015, is only two days, but it is more potent than ever.

This year opening night will feature a full Nepali meal from Curry Without Worry, community networking and a screening of Sunakali, an inspiring film about a female soccer team from one of the most remote regions in Nepal. A panel discussion about progressing womens rights in the Himalayan Region will follow.

While Kenda and I were coordinating the festival in 2013 Himalayan Fair in Berkeley—we didn’t realize that  Bay Area based organization Sahayeta were planning their own Himalayan Film Festival. A screening committee was gathering and venues were booked for August that year. Sapana Sakya from CAAM introduced us Amisha Hada and Nisha Thapa, who were leading the charge at Sahayeta.

The second we met the folks behind Sahayeta were eager to hand the reigns of the festival to them. Now, the festival only happens because of the hard work of volunteers at Sahayeta. They are on a powerful mission to educate and inspire.

If you have ever doubted the power of a small group of committed citizens I would invite you meet the folks who drive the mission at Sahayeta and who you can meet at Opening Night of this years Himalayan Film Festival. We hope to see you there! 6:30 pm at Ninth Street Independent Film Center in San Francisco.

Justin Barker

Justin Barker is a education content producer and change maker living in San Francisco. He previously worked at and is currently writing his first book, BearBoy, about his journey to successfully build a black bear sanctuary at the age of 13. You can find him @justinbarkertv on Twitter or Instagram.


2015 Himalayan Film Festival, San Francisco, May 1-2, 2015 at the Ninth Street Independent Film Center.

About Himalayan Film Festival

Himalayan Film Festival will showcase stories from the roof of the world, Stories from Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan; stories of hardships, of dreams, of aspirations, achievements, of love and life; stories that have the power to bring communities together; stories that have the power to inspire, stories that need to be shared.

The festival is in its third year and is a collaborative work of individuals and organizations committed to foster a better community.

Come discover the magic of the himalayas, the hidden Shangrila on Friday, May 1st  (Opening night from 6 – 10 pm) and  Saturday, May 2nd (Whole day screening) at San Francisco. Please stay tuned for more details.

The Center for Asian American Media is a sponsor of the Himalayan Film Festival.