Nepal’s First Berlinale Competition Entry, ‘Shambhala,’ Lands at Best Friend Forever for Worldwide Sales (EXCLUSIVE)

Brussels-based company Best Friend Forever (“Banel & Adama”) has acquired international rights to “Shambhala,” the first Nepalese film to premiere in competition at the Berlinale or any other top film festival.

Directed by Min Bahadur Bham, “Shambhala” is also the first South Asian film to be selected in Berlinale’s competition lineup after three decades. Bham is best known for his feature debut, “Kalo Pothi,” which won a prize at Venice Critics’ Week in 2015. The helmer previously directed “Bansulli,” which was Nepal’s first selection at the Venice Film Festival in 2012.

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“Shambhala” is set in a Himalayan polyandrous village in Nepal, where a newly married and pregnant woman, Pema, tries to make the best of her new life. But soon, her husband Tashi vanishes, prompting her to embark on a journey into the wilderness to find him, accompanied by her monk.

The film shot in the world’s highest settlement, located between 4,200 to 6,000 meters above sea level. The cast is essentially made up of non-professional actors from the region including Thinley Lhamo, Sonam Topden, Tenzin Dalha and Karma Wangyal Gurung.

“Masterfully mixing tradition and modernity, ‘Shambhala’ brings on screen an unknown culture and amazing Himalayan landscape, while at the same time building a strong and modern female lead protagonist,” Best Friend Forever co-founders Martin Gondre and Charles Bin said in a statement. “The film leads the audience to an unexpected journey while building a breathtaking cinematography.”

“Shambhala” was produced by Bham at Shooney Films (“Songs of Love and Hate”) and co-produced by Catherine Dussart, who has worked with Rithy Panh and Amos Gitai. Other producers include Verona Meier (“Feathers”), Shuk Fong Chong, Zeynep Koray, Justine O. (“Only the River Flows”) and Bibhakar Sunder Shakya.

Launched five years ago, Best Friend Forever has established a track record of handling gems from rising filmmakers, including “Banel & Adama,” the feature debut of Ramata-Toulaye Sy which world premiered in competition at Cannes.

The company’s roster for the Berlinale and European Film Market includes Panorama selection “The Visitor” by queer icon Bruce LaBruce. Recent titles include Venice Orizzonti and Toronto title “City of Wind” by Lkhagvadulam Purev-Ochir and Claude Schmitz’s Directors’ Fortnight thriller “The Other Laurens.”

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