Audiovisual Narrative Workshops’ – from Research to Documentary Project in Nepal

Audiovisual Narrative Workshops’ – from Research to Documentary Project in Nepal

Part of the methodology of the RIVERS project involves consolidating networks of collaboration in each country where it operates. Creating networks with experts, activists, and artists is a way to understand local realities from concrete experiences. Nepal is the country where RIVERS embarked on field research to study the intersection of ontologies, socio-political and power issues, and infrastructural development projects. In this case, the project aims to empirically learn about these topics and simultaneously identify an audiovisual narrative. The workshops held in April and November 2023 served both purposes: to establish a working network and to identify a viable case study that could offer an interesting audiovisual story to tell.

The art of storytelling in Asia: sharing visions and practices

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On April 28, 2023, we organised an initial workshop in Kathmandu, where we had the honour of hosting professionals from the audiovisual and academic worlds.

The objective was not only to present RIVERS’ research plans in Nepal, with the project’s PI Lieselotte Viaene and Research Documentary Coordinator Diego Padilla, but also to seek other perspectives from experts familiar with the local context and concerns. We aimed to explore visions and narratives to advance the investigation of the Nepalese case.

A year prior, the PI travelled to the western region of the Karnali River to assess the possibility of working there. With this workshop, we sought to explore other possibilities and regions for research.

Minket Lepcha, an Indigenous audiovisual creator from the Lepcha community committed to preserving oral traditions and folklore of Indigenous communities in South Asia, shared her experience and work as a storyteller on the Teesta River (India). Through the lens of documentary photographer Nabin Baral, we delved into his work and personal story linked to the Marsyangdi River. Audiovisual storyteller Prasiit Sthapit shared the work he has developed over the years on the Narayani River. Our collaborator Austin Lord, an anthropologist and visual ethnographer, contributed to bridging the gap between research and the audiovisual world.

The Marsyangdi and Trisuli Rivers in the geographic centre of Nepal were evaluated as spaces harbouring fascinating stories and cases. The workshop played an essential role in later identifying the Lamjung and Manang regions, where the Marsyangdi River flows, as a new study area for RIVERS. This laid the groundwork for organising the project’s next research trip to Nepal in July 2023.

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Audiovisual Workshop: The Marsyangdi River, Indigenous peoples, hydropower and law

On November 10, 2023, the RIVERS team resumed socialisation and conceptual development activities by meeting with a group of human rights defenders, academics, and filmmakers in Nepal at Dhokaima Café in the Patan neighbourhood of Kathmandu. The workshop aimed to strengthen RIVERS’ network with individuals and institutions sensitive to the issues surrounding hydroelectric project development on Indigenous lands in Nepal. This was in preparation for refining the research focus in the country and solidifying RIVERS’ documentary filming plans around the Marsyangdi River.

The event featured participation from Prasiit Sthapit, Tahal Thami from LAHURNIP, prominent Indigenous communicator Dev Kumar Sunuwar, artist Kishor Sharma, and academics Dawa Tamang and Ram Bhandari, among others. Ganga Gurung provided support in organising and translating the event.

Source: Bhattarai, B.C et al. 2020

Lieselotte Viaene, the principal investigator of RIVERS, initiated the workshop by introducing the audience to RIVERS’ work, its progress, the research focus in Nepal, and concluded by presenting a teaser of the documentary in production on the Colombian case. Diego Padilla, representing RIVERS, delivered a presentation on the fieldwork experience conducted in July 2023, when the team travelled to the Marsyangdi River for the first time to investigate the impact of a 220-kilovolt transmission line on the lives of riverside communities in the middle and upper parts of the basin.

Indigenous lawyer Tahal Thamil discussed the challenges related to the practical implementation of the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) protocol in cases his organisation works on. After lunch, Dev Kumar Sunuwar introduced the audience to Indigenous social communication in Nepal and the awareness-raising work they carry out in the country and international spaces.

Kishor Sharma elaborated on a sustainable development project, the KTK Belt in eastern Nepal, which he recently documented, involving the construction of hydroponic crop systems in an arid and inaccessible region.

With this workshop, RIVERS expanded its network for investigative purposes and identified a group of filmmakers interested in documenting the project’s research in Nepal.

The following week, Lieselotte Viaene and Diego Padilla, in collaboration with translators Ransubba and Ganga Gurung, travelled once again to the Lamjung and Manang regions to gain a deeper understanding of the cultural/ontological, socio-political, and power issues involved when the continuous flow of the Marsyangdi River is disrupted and transmission lines are constructed on the surrounding fertile lands.


For more information about RIVERS’ research in Nepal: Viaene, L., 2023, Indigenous legal expertise, sacred rivers, and hydropower development projects in Third Pole country Nepal. Jindal Global Law Review 14, pp. 277–296.  


Ana Paula García Nieto – RIVERS Project manager (Universidad Carlos III de Madrid)

Diego Padilla – RIVERS Coordinator/Producer of the Documentary Project (Universidad Carlos III de Madrid)



Bhattarai, B.C.; Silantyeva, O.; Teweldebrhan, A.T.; Helset, S.; Skavhaug, O.; Burkhart, J.F. Impact of Catchment Discretization and Imputed Radiation on Model Response: A Case Study from Central Himalayan Catchment. Water 2020, 12, 2339.

Ana Garcia