What is our film about?
DURGA: Forging a New Trail, a short documentary film, tells the story of 34-year-old Durga Rawal, the only mountain guide of any gender from her village in northern Nepal. In a country where boys receive an education, men seek employment in larger cities and girls and women are often left to work on family farms and within their homes, Durga’s is a story of defying cultural, societal and familial expectations to pursue an independent life. It is a story of female empowerment and gender equality about a brave young woman who is forging her own trail.
Our film explores and celebrates bold dreams and the unwavering strength it takes to overcome doubt, discrimination and harassment to break free from the narratives that are put before us and intentionally reach for a life that is uniquely ours.
In Hinduism, Durga is a goddess of war, whose mythology centers around combating evils and demonic forces that threaten peace, prosperity and the power of good over evil. She is a fierce form of the protective mother goddess, who unleashes her divine wrath against the wicked for the liberation of the oppressed.
Durga Rawal embodies the meaning of her name, as she forges a new trail for herself, and other girls and women, as a guide in the Himalayas. Our short film shares her story, and we need your help to complete editing the film and share it with you—and the world.
How did this project come about?
My (Emily, director & producer) story with DURGA starts in 2015, when I was working for One World Play Project in Berkeley, California. Around the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, we launched and ran a marketing campaign called All Girls Can Play. Through the campaign, we collaborated with Women Win to give ultra-durable soccer balls to organizations working with girls and women in communities around the world.
Intrigued by Women Win’s global network in the female empowerment and gender equality space, I spent time on their website reading about their partner organizations and what each of them does. Empowering Women of Nepal, a nonprofit organization that trains and supports Nepalese women to become guides and work in tourism, caught my interest immediately for its connection to outdoor adventure as well as female empowerment and gender equality. I had never heard of an organization doing such work, or with such a mission, in the United States, let alone elsewhere in the world.
That week at work, I told my boss, who collaborated closely with me on our company’s storytelling about the impact of play, in all its forms, around the world, that I felt there was a story with EWN worth exploring, telling and sharing. She agreed, and while we never pursued that story at One World Play Project, the idea remained with me. Continue reading here.
How are we making this film?
Our film traces Durga’s path from her childhood in the Mugu District; to her early 20s in the Jumla District, where an ecotourism training sparked her desire to become a guide; to Pokhara, the gateway to the Annapurna Circuit, where Durga trained to become and now works as a guide in the Himalayas.
Throughout, we see Durga’s passion and determination to follow a path of independence. We see her love of learning, meeting new people, experiencing new places and living life outdoors. From Durga to her mother and sister to the women at Empowering Women of Nepal and 3 Sisters Adventure Trekking Company, we also see layers of women helping and empowering women. We see the ways in which Durga is not only working alongside women but also encouraging women to step into their dreams.
Through DURGA, our goal is to give life to this truly local story that carries universal themes. We want to make a film that inspires girls and women in Nepal and around the world to authentically explore and create their own paths in life, ones that are unique and meaningful to them based on the heart and soul of who they are.
How are we funding this film?
Through early support from Gordon Hopcian & Carol McKee, David Kilian, Dave & Sue Laabs, Bob & Janice McKee, Micky & Cindy Tschirhart and Orin & Tina Mazzoni as well as sponsorship from Arc’teryx, Teva and Osprey, we have successfully captured the footage needed to create our film and started editing.
Now, we need your help to complete editing—which includes music, sound mixing, color correction, design and more—so we can share this special film with you and the world. In supporting this campaign, you play a critical role in helping us complete and share DURGA: Forging a New Trail.
Who is making this film?
EMILY HOPCIAN // Director & Producer
Emily is a storyteller and content producer with a focus on character-driven stories of outdoor adventure and social and environmental impact. In her four years with One World Play Project, she explored, shaped and directed more than 27 videos featuring stories from Brazil, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Haiti, Italy, Kenya, Myanmar, South Africa and the U.S. Throughout the past 10 years, Emily has written, directed and produced stories for National Geographic Adventure, REI Co-op Journal, She Explores, Stay Wild Magazine, RANGE Magazine, One World Play Project, Traverse Magazine and more. Currently based in Bariloche, Argentina, Emily seeks to tell the stories of everyday explorers on extraordinary adventures. She's passionate about telling truly local stories that carry universal themes to inspire global understanding and connection.
ALAN SCHWER // Cinematographer & Editor
Alan is an audiovisual storyteller dedicated to sharing stories from the mountains with a focus on connecting people to communities and the natural environments that surround us. With roots in northern Argentine Patagonia, Alan is a certified mountain guide and ski instructor. He has worked as a cinematographer on projects for Patagonia, Mammut and Sweetgrass Productions; as a production assistant for a Discovery Channel series; and directed, produced, filmed and edited a feature-length documentary on Refugio Frey in Bariloche, Argentina. Motivated by the growing social and environmental issues within Patagonia, Alan has combined his passions for the outdoors and film to create and share impactful stories.
KOPAL GOYAL // Cinematographer & Photographer
Kopal is a documentary filmmaker, photographer and rock climber based in Nashik, India. She is also the founder of Inspire Crew, a platform that empowers individuals, especially girls and women, through extreme and outdoor sports. Projects include Ganesha Route 8B+: India’s Hardest Route, Free Soul and Project Wild Women. Kopal’s award-winning work has appeared with Red Bull, BBC India, Rock and Ice Magazine, Gripped: The Climbing Magazine and more. Leveraging her creativity with film and photography for causes that go unnoticed motivates Kopal most. She wants to inspire a world where girls and women come forward and make a difference and where the outdoor playground becomes more inclusive for all.
You, and the world, want this story.
The demand for and response to real, authentic stories of brave, bold and beautiful women is strong. From Always’ #LikeAGirl campaign to the #MeToo movement to the USWNT’s fight for equal pay, there’s a wave of individuals, organizations and companies speaking out in support of female empowerment and gender equality, in the U.S. and around the world.
Within the outdoor and adventure travel industries, companies and consumers are tapping into the powerful stories of women in the outdoors: REI’s #ForceOfNature campaign; The North Face’s #SheMovesMountains campaign; media companies, such as She Explores, that are focused on female experiences; and more.
A September 2017 article (The Adventure Film Industry's Women Problem) from Outside states, “Women constituted 46 percent of outdoor recreationists in 2016 in the United States. They make up 40 percent of U.S. athletes and 43 percent of college scholarship athletes—yet men’s sports receive a whopping 96 percent of traditional media coverage. Women are also underrepresented in the film industry: Of the 100 top-grossing films in 2016, only 4 percent were directed by women, according to a yearly study from the University of Southern California … One way to shift the narrative? Invest in women’s adventure films, big-time. It’s only in the past few years that any such thing has existed.”
“We could use a lot more of this female power and joy and grit, even if it’s just in sport and adventure films.” – Monica Heger, Outside
“Women make up half the world’s population. So why is it that every adventure film festival has just one token film about a woman? Despite recent strides, women are grossly underrepresented in outdoor industry storytelling, especially in film. This has an impact on young girls developing their dreams as adventurers and everyone’s understanding of the capacity of females. DURGA is a story we desperately need to produce—to shift narratives of gender and adventure and to amplify the untold stories of one of the toughest women on earth.” – Sarah Murray, executive director, Women’s Wilderness
“Investment in women and girls should not only occur on the playing fields but in more storytelling of badass, amazing women who continue to show that we are more than just athletes.” – Alex Morgan, U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team
When can you see this film?
Thanks to your financial support through this campaign, we will finish editing DURGA and submit it to film festivals in North America, Europe and beyond.
Our goal is that DURGA: Forging a New Trail will premiere in Summer 2020 and will then circulate through film festivals focused on stories of outdoor adventure, travel, female empowerment and gender equality—such as Mountainfilm, Banff Centre Mountain Film Festival, No Man’s Land Film Festival, Women Sports Film Festival and LUNAFEST—as well as more mainstream festivals in 2020 and 2021.
In addition to festivals, we will seek to distribute the film online with partners such as Outside TV, National Geographic Adventure and more, making it even more accessible to you and a larger audience.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you!
I am truly grateful for your support. From start to finish, this is a team effort. I cannot do this without you. Thank you for supporting our film via this crowdfunding campaign and sharing it with your family, friends and community!
I invite you to get involved in a deeper way. If this speaks to you, email me at [email protected].
With so much love & gratitude,