By Jordan Meiland
Kunga Choephel taking a self-portrait. Photo courtesy of Kunga Choephel.
Kunga Choephel, a Junior in the Purchase Film Program, recently had one of his films featured in a virtual exhibition put on by The Yakpo Collective. The Beat’s Jordan Meiland sat down with him (via Zoom ) to discuss the film, titled This is closest to how the last weeks of March felt like. Filmed in the midst of the onset of the Coronavirus Pandemic, he talks about the process of filming and the significance it holds.
The Beat: This is closest to how the last few weeks of March felt like, is part of The Yakpo Collective’s virtual exhibition: “Transcending Boundaries.” How does it feel to be a part of the exhibition?
Kunga: Oh my God, it’s probably one of the most cherished experiences because it’s for and by Tibetan artists. In recent months, it was kind of lonely because I didn’t know if there were any other Tibetan artists out there. I felt like I was the only one. This experience has changed that. Now knowing that there’s Tibetan photographers, painters, dancers, it’s amazing. I never saw that at all two weeks ago.
The Beat: How did you get involved?
Kunga: It was an open call to all Tibetan artists. They were looking for artists to exhibit across all mediums. However, it was my friend who put me on to this collective and I submitted my film hoping it’d get in.
The Beat: Was this film made specifically for the exhibition?
Kunga: It was made long before the exhibition. It was just something I came up with and it fit perfectly with the narrative of the exhibition.
The Beat: What were some of the challenges you had making this film?
Kunga: The biggest challenge was making something so immediate. I really made this to understand my situation better and that was a big challenge. Detaching myself and looking at it through a different lens was difficult. But I came out of making this film better understanding myself and the situation I was in. It was also really therapeutic to work with my Dad on this. During the conversations we had before this, we hid things from one another. When I wrote the script for this, I said “what if we were saying what we meant fully, up front?” That was really therapeutic to act out with my dad.
The Beat: How does this film compare to previous films you’ve made?
Kunga: The process was very foreign to me. But thematically, this was similar to what I normally make. Almost all of my films have a very strong through line of family and familial relationships, so it was like what I’ve made previously.
The Beat: A lot of your film is overdubbed with recorded phone calls. Why did you decide to do this?
Kunga: It was a perspective thing. I wanted this to be shot from my POV. Additionally, I couldn’t see my dad throughout any of this, so those phone calls are cherished. I wanted to put the audience completely in my shoes.
The Beat: What is your favorite shot from the film?
Kunga: The last one. I don’t believe it’s the most aesthetically beautiful shot, but the meaning it has is powerful. It’s a 40-60-second-long shot which is powerful to me.
The Beat: Is there anything you would’ve done differently if you were making this film again?
Kunga: It was exactly the way I wanted it to be. It was more about the process for me. It’s a good side effect that this has become one of my most popular movies, but it was more about the process of working on this with my dad and understanding the situation better. That was the big goal of this.
The Beat: What’s some of the feedback you’ve been hearing?
Kunga: The biggest feedback I’ve been hearing is from fellow immigrants. They’re saying: “thank you for making this”, “I really relate to this”, and “I haven’t seen my story being represented like this.” That’s great. I’m glad I can do that to someone and bring that experience out. That’s kind of the goal for me with filmmaking: bring a very unique perspective of an immigrant living in the U.S. Even though the story’s so unique, it’s still so universal. A lot of people go through what I’m going through. Especially immigrants. That’s something I really cherish.
Kunga’s film is available for view here. He would like to thank Zeena and Dimani for their help with the making of the film. He’s currently working on his first feature documentary, as well as a handful of photo projects.
About the Author:
Jordan Meiland is a Junior majoring in Journalism and minoring in History. He is the current Editor-In-Chief of The Beat.