“Highway to Dhampus,” a PG movie, follows Elizabeth James, a rich socialite from England, in her journey to Nepal. James is going to Nepal to visit an orphanage as an effort to clean up her image as it’s been portrayed in the tabloids.
“Her family sends her to Nepal with charity and a publicist to take pictures of her doing good to change her image and it ends up changing her,” said Kathy McFarland, wife of director Rick McFarland.
Rick and Kathy McFarland, director, and John Williams, producer, are BYU alumni along with many of those associated with the film.
The film features four main characters, Elizabeth James, her publicist, her pilot and the orphanage caretaker.
The pilot, Ajit, is played by Raj Ballav Koirala, a Nepalese actor living in Baltimore. According to Koirala, the characters each experience change as they come in contact with a new layer of one of the other characters or see a new perspective on a situation.
“The movie is all about change, a better change, around you (and) within you,” Koirala said.
Koirala has been in countless feature films, and when asked how he landed the role, he said, “I think it was a destiny that was meant to happen.” Koirala first auditioned over Skype with Rick and producer, John Williams.
The film’s emphasis on change continues off screen as well. “Highway to Dhampus” was filmed almost entirely in Nepal, the McFarland’s first experience with this country. Rick and Kathy felt the need to help with the poverty Rick witnessed there. With this in mind, Kathy and her daughter Jessica started a non-profit called Mind the Gap Worldwide.
“My dad is the film director so he spent two months in Nepal just filming,” said BYU student Jessica McFarland. “He would always come back and show us pictures and tell us about it.”
Kathy McFarland started noticing humanitarian efforts and decided she wanted to be part of that. “As a family we always felt very connected to Nepal because that’s where my Dad was,” Jessica McFarland said. Nepal was the perfect opportunity for their humanitarian focus. “The wheels were turning with “Highway to Dhampus” and the wheels were turning with this humanitarian effort,” Jessica McFarland said.
Kathy McFarland said their focus has always been “using the film to be able to help raise money. We’ve done a lot of benefit screenings in lots of countries: Australia, Canada, England, here in Utah. In April when the earthquake hit in Nepal and there was all of the devastation there, it became even more of a resource to be able to help.”
As more people see this film, “people just want to give,” said Jessica McFarland. “Hopefully people will continue to give and I think they will. The film talks about doing good and change. The movie isn’t set up at all to say you need to change, you need to do good, it just shows some of Nepal and the story line and the audience fills it in with ‘I want to do something too.'”
“Highway to Dhampus” has won awards in many national and international festivals such as Heartland Film Festival, San Luis Obispo Film Festival, CayFilm Festival, Madrid International Film Festival and International Film Competition in Jakarta.
The film opened Oct. 9 at the Cinemark Theater at the University Mall in Orem. The film will be playing there for two weeks.