Program - Day 3 - Wednesday 30 July

Section I - Moving Images / Day 3

Bel Fruit and Loin Cloth: The Initiation of Boys and Girls in
Bhaktapur, Nepal (2007)

Niels Gutschow and Axel Michaels (Heidelberg)
Maria Hemmleb and Christian Bau (Hamburg)

This day offers a thick description of the conceptualisation and production of a documentary film by its producers. A presentation of the scope of producing films as documentations of rituals is followed by a film screening and exploration of the ritual site, Bhaktapur, and its people.


The Ihi ritual (the marriage of 4-9 year old girls) to the fruit of the wood apple tree (bel fruit) and Vishnu in his form of a "golden boy" (Survarnakumar) is celebrated by the Newars, who live in Kathmandu valley. It is organized each year for the girls approaching adolescence. At the same time, in many places boys undergo their own initiation by the tying of the loin cloth by the mother's brother and the head of the lineage.

The rituals were filmed on 21st to 25th January and 7th February 2007.

1 Axel Michaels presents the background of the film which is the second of a trilogy on life cycle rituals in Nepal (the first on death rituals, Handling Death, was published in 2005, the third one on marriage rituals will be presented in 2012).
Michaels teaches Indology at the South Asia Institute. He will talk about the scope of producing films as documentations of rituals.

2 Presentation of the film, 65 min

3 Niels Gutschow presents the "place" - Bhaktapur; one of the urban centres of the Kathmandu valley, which developed in its present shape since the 14th century as a royal city.
Gutschow was educated as an architect and works in Nepal since 1970 in the field of Architectural Anthropology as well as urban and architectural preservation. He will talk about the need to be familiar with the place and the actors.

4 Christian Bau produces documentary films and started to film in Nepal and Benares (Shivas Places, 2006) only in 2004. He will talk about the movement of the camera in space - not knowing where and when something unknown will happen. About how intuition leads him and how he manages encounters with ritual actors.

5 Presentation of one hour of material and the final version: how minutes of an hour-long sequence become part of a narrative.
Discussion of this process: the meaning of manipulation and authenticity in the production.
The role of the authors, the cameraman and the cutter (Maria Hemmleb) in the shaping of the film.

6 Presentation of alternatives for the beginning of the film and the role of spoken text and subtitles. Explanations versus presentation of basic facts, the introduction to space, actors and time.

7 Second presentation of the film, 63 min

8 Final discussion

9 public presentation of the film Handling Death, 48 min, discussion

Christian Bau
Christian Bau
Producer and Filmmaker, die thede filmproduktion, Hamburg, Germany

Axel Michaels
Axel Michaels
Professor of Classical Indology, Speaker and Research Fellow of the SFB 619, University of Heidelberg, Germany

Maria Hemmleb
Maria Hemmleb
Documentary Filmmaker and Editor, die thede filmproduktion, Hamburg, Germany

Niels Gutschow
Niels Gutschow
Prof. Dr. ing., Architecture Historian, Research Fellow of the SFB 619, University of Heidelberg, Germany