The jagged, piercing Himalaya Mountains rise in the backgrounds of simple country villages.
Thatched-roof houses and buildings made of corrugated metal wind up steep hills. Centuries-old stone temples perch overlooking breathtaking valleys.
This is the Nepal that Rick McFarland knew, the one he filmed when making his film “Highway to Dhampus.” That memory has forever been lost, reduced to rubble in the wake of powerful earthquakes that rocked the country over the past month.
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McFarland can’t bring that old Nepal back. But he’s using his film to help restore the lives of people displaced by the disasters.
To aid the earthquake-ravaged residents of Nepal, McFarland will fly to Franklin for a special screening of “Highway to Dhampus.” The Utah-based director worked with Resurrection Lutheran Church on the southside to arrange a showing at the Historic Artcraft Theatre.
“Since Nepal, the people and the place, is such a character in this film, you get a better feel of what it really is,” McFarland said. “It feels like a more genuine way to connect with Nepal and then decide if there is something you want to do to help.”
Tickets are free to the film, though donations will be accepted. All of the proceeds go toward disaster relief in Nepal.
Organizers said they hope Wednesday’s event not only helps the suffering people in Nepal but also will help to introduce local residents to the beauty and complexity of Nepalese culture.
“This film celebrates the best of human values. It broadens your mind about cultural differences, raises issues about what true generosity is, how to bring about change and redemption,” said Dave Schreiber, pastor at Resurrection Lutheran Church. “I hope that through the beauty of storytelling, those connections to human beings and our global brothers and sisters are made.”
Audiences in Franklin will have an opportunity to see it before it is officially released later this year.
“Highway to Dhampus” tells the story of Laxmi, a headmistress at a small orphanage in the Annapurna Mountains of Nepal. When a spoiled socialite arrives at the orphanage hoping to buff her public image, it starts in motion events that changes both women and the people around them.
“It’s a beautiful story about redemption, the meaning of true generosity and cultural and spiritual differences finding connecting points,” Schreiber said.
The screening was put together by Schreiber, a self-proclaimed movie buff who first saw “Highway to Dhampus” during the Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis in 2014.
The film was the winner of the best U.S. premiere during the festival. When Schreiber saw it, he was captured by its message and breadth.
After the screening last year, Schreiber met McFarland to discuss the film. They became friends on Facebook, and Schreiber has followed the success of it ever since.
“Highway to Dhampus” is being shown on the film-festival circuit, recently winning awards at the Madrid International Film Festival and the SoHo International Film Festival, where it won the juror’s award for the Best Feature, World Showcase.
Schreiber’s interest in the movie intersected with the tragic earthquakes in Nepal, which have killed more than 8,000 since the first quake struck April 25.
Resurrection Lutheran Church had decided even before the disaster to make “Everest” its vacation Bible school theme. The curriculum for the weeklong event would place students in a cartoon world of Mount Everest.
“Here we are doing this event that has all of these happy, smiley characters climbing Mount Everest, and then contrasting that with these devastated villages in Nepal,” Schreiber said. “It struck me — how do you put a human face to this devastation?”
Because the vacation Bible school typically does a service project each year, Schreiber thought it would be fitting to do something to help earthquake victims in Nepal.
He saw that McFarland was doing a special screening of “Highway to Dhampus” in his hometown of Park City, Utah, to benefit the Nepalese. On a whim, Schreiber reached out to the director to inquire about doing something similar in Indiana.
To his surprise, McFarland was entirely on board.
“It was a no-brainer to do it with David there and how well-received we had been there from the film festival,” he said.
What initially was going to be a church event quickly grew to include the entire Johnson County community.
“We realized very quickly that this was going to be bigger than us. And Rick is very excited to have the film shown in a historic venue like the Artcraft,” Schreiber said.
McFarland will attend the screening to thank people and answer questions about the movie. He’s also arranged to bring Raj Ballav-Koirala, principal Nepali actor in the film.
All of the proceeds will be split between Lutheran World Relief, which has provided more than $1 million to Nepal already, and Mind the Gap Worldwide. The group has partnered with the Nepali people on a number of humanitarian projects and is actively involved in the relief efforts underway.
“It really is a window into events that, even though they’re fictional, they’re metaphorical to what is happening in Nepal now,” McFarland said. “With social media, there are so many things to concentrate on. People feel disconnected with the places that are so remote. It’s easy for people to forget what has happened there, so it’s important to remind them.”
What: “Highway to Dhampus,” a feature film set in Nepal, telling the story of the headmistress in a small orphanage who is visited by a rich socialite hoping to repair her public image through a charitable act.
When: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Historic Artcraft Theatre, 57 N. Main St., Franklin
Why: The special screening is being organized by Resurrection Lutheran Church and Rick McFarland, director of the film, to raise money for earthquake relief in Nepal. McFarland and Nepalese actor Raj Ballav-Koirala will be in attendance.
Cost: The screening is free, but offerings will be accepted. All proceeds will go to relief agencies Lutheran World Relief and Mind the Gap Worldwide.