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How a New Documentary Connects Texas and Nepal Through Art

The latest project blending travel and culture from the Dallas directing duo known as Exploredinary will have its local premiere this week.
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Multimedia artist Sean Starr (right) said making Art Is Love: Nepal was a transformational experience. Exploredinary

Nine years ago, when Daniel Driensky and Sarah Reyes merged passion with profession through their creative agency, Exploredinary, they hoped for a project like Art Is Love: Nepal. The first feature-length documentary for the Dallas filmmaking couple perfectly encapsulates their company’s portmanteau, and its philosophy converging art, culture, and travel as a vessel for bringing people together.

“It’s sort of a manifesto or a way of seeing the world,” Driensky said. “It’s a mindset we came up with, knowing how to see value in things around you.”

The film follows Texas multimedia artist and musician Sean Starr during a motorcycle trip to the Asian country of Nepal, where he immerses himself with local artisans and craftspeople, sharing perspectives and bonding through art.

“We’re all connected globally. There’s certain things that transcend distance, and one of those is artistic expression,” Starr said. “You really feel connected to these people on the opposite side of the Earth. They’re the same as us. They’re just in another country.”

The film will screen on Wednesday at the Texas Theatre as part of a free series presented by the Dallas Film & Creative Industries Office. The concept was spawned from the friendship between the directors and Starr, who lived in Denton before opening his own studio five years ago in the small town of Calvert, located between Waco and Bryan.

Driensky and Reyes filmed a commissioned piece on Starr’s sign painting in 2017. Two years later, Starr visited Nepal with other artists, then called the Exploredinary team afterward.

“I was only out there for a couple of weeks but wound up making long-term friendships with some of the artists and artisans there,” Starr said. “We stayed in touch. I was able to tap into that when telling their story.”

The trio filmed Art Is Love over two weeks in early March 2020, just before the pandemic prompted the closure of international borders.

The finished film uses Starr’s motorcycle trek to explore art forms and cultural traditions passed through generations of the Magar people in a remote village in the Himalayan foothills. Specifically, it features Thangka painters, Buddhist devotional artists, woodcarvers, singing bowl manufacturers, paper makers, basket weavers, musicians, and dancers.

“We’ve realized how insulated certain people are because travel just seems too scary or foreign or different. We wanted to make it more palatable,” Reyes said. “You can travel with us digitally with someone like Sean, who looks like your neighbor, going somewhere like that and having candid discussions with these people. You begin to realize that someone on the other side of the world cares about the same things you do.”

Driensky and Reyes also spent significant time with Calvert in his studio, which they use to illustrate how the cultural gaps aren’t as wide as 8,000 miles might suggest.

“It’s an interesting volley between these two extreme worlds,” Reyes said. “Texas has a very distinct identity and so does Nepal. We enjoyed incorporating that.”

After screening in Dallas — where Starr and the filmmakers will be present for a Q&A afterward — the documentary is expected to play festivals this year before becoming available to the public sometime in the near future.

“These were really fantastic experiences,” Starr said. “It’s so vivid and overpowering. I’m so glad we were able to capture it on film.”

Going forward, the directors hope to continue their Art Is Love series with future Exploredinary projects that involve the same mission as their journey to Nepal.

“It was life-changing in the moment, and we really wanted to capture that story and bring it back to people through this film,” he said. “We want to bring different cultures together and understand that we’re not that different.”

Find more information about the screening here.

Author

Todd Jorgenson

Todd Jorgenson

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