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The Sari Soldiers

Distributed by Women Make Movies, 462 Broadway, New York, NY 10013; 212-925-0606
Produced by Butter Lamp Films, LLC
Directed by Julie Bridgham
DVD, color, 90 min.
Sr. High - Adult
Asian Studies, Women's Studies, Activism, Human Rights, Gender Studies, Nepal

Reviewed by Malcolm L. Rigsby, Department of Sociology, Ouachita Baptist University, Arkadelphia, AR

Highly Recommended  Highly Recommended   
Date Entered: 11/21/2008

The Sari Soldiers is an excellent documentary of a people’s struggle to adapt to change within their country and bring about solutions. The film focuses upon six individual women. Each woman’s role is in some ways contrastingly similar to the other women. However, their specific objectives differ.

Kranti, whose name is a pseudonym for “revolution”, fights valiantly for the Maoist Peoples Liberation Army in her effort to overthrow the Monarchy, by violence if necessary. On the other hand, Ram is equally vehement about the overthrow of the Monarchy, but in her role as a protest leader in the Student Political Party she seeks to bring this change through protest in the streets of Hathmandu. “All political conflict is resolved on the streets”, she states emphatically.

Kathmandu is also the training camp for Rajani, who following her dead brother’s example seeks a career in the Royal Napali Army. She is among the first of the women to be recruited in an effort to take a staunch stand against the Peoples Liberation Army, which consist of a large number of women combatants. She hopes not to go to battle, but if attacked she will “attack back”.

Then there are Krishna, Devi and Mandira. Krishna in her rural mountain village home supports the Monarchy. It has always been and should remain. It has not harmed her or her people. She fights though! Her fight is to keep the villagers, again mainly the women organized in an effort to keep the Peoples Liberation Army out of her village and keep the Democratic Party from entering and convincing the village youth from leaving to assist them in the city. Devi’s plight is in direct relation to the seventh major figure in this documentary, Maina. Without Maina, Devi’s fifteen-year-old daughter Devi might well be only a bystander or perhaps involved with one of the other women. We begin the documentary with Devi and find that Maina is one of the estimated 800 Nepalese who “disappeared” during the years of oppression in Nepal. Her story is poignant as the viewer travels with Devi in her search for Maina and her ultimate findings. In her, we can relate in a particularly close affinity. In Mandira, the human rights attorney who assists Devi, we may find inspiration of a different kind. Perhaps this film will serve as an inspiration to help others even when we ourselves are not directly affected by trauma or harsh conditions of life. The viewer may find that he or she can relate to most if not all the women in this documentary. It is not necessary that as a viewer we be female to make this connection. Their struggles are the struggles of society and so we should look deep into their plights in an attempt to make a connection to their circumstances.

Each of these portraits serves in her own unique way to inspire, to persevere and stay true to values and beliefs of human dignity.

The documentary is rather long. A single screening in many instances will exceed a normal education class meeting time. There are no chapter listings in the menu, therefore it is somewhat difficult and awkward to stop the video and then return to it. Breaking the video in a minimum of two chapters would be advisable to assist instructors or those who feel the need for a break half way through the 90-minute length.

The music score is superb and well suited as scenes change. Sound and picture quality are fantastic and scenes are vivid and alive. Editing is excellent.


    Human Rights Watch FF, NY, Nestor Almendros Award, Human Rights Watch Film Festival, London