Four teenagers live in a remote mountainous region in a small village. Together, they love to make music, listening to their voices echo among the hills and valleys. When they hear of a music concert in the closest city, they make their way to the city, where they must summon the courage to share their music with a world very different from the one they come from.
Written and directed by Suman Sen from a script co-written by Bijon, this charming, spare and stirring short drama -- an Oscar qualifer thanks to its award at Raindance -- takes much of its initial appeal from its charmingly youthful cast and the stunning mountainside setting. The remote setting of northwestern Nepal, near the Tibetan border, is both vast and striking, and the cinematography captures both the immense scale of it, as well as the smallness of its young protagonists. Within this setting, these teens don't have much in terms of contemporary distractions of entertainment and tech devices. But they have each other, and music. And when they get the call of a music contest, they feel a longing to strike out together.
Much of the film charts their journey from the mountains into the shock of a bustling, noisy urban setting, a contrast made striking by the dense sound collage of honks, traffic and crowd noise. As a cast, the young musicians possess a self-sufficiency that makes their journey on their own believable. But they are also still young, subject to the fear that besets them when they take the stage, singing their music of the mountains and realizing how different they are from the rest of the world.
The final resonance of "The Silent Echo" rests on the impact of these realizations on the band, as they realize not just how wide the world is, but that they may too have to leave it in the future. With its skillful, unforgettable final images and haunting song, the film becomes not just a coming-of-age story, but a meditation on a world that's vanishing. As its inhabitants are forced to abandon it for a more economically advantageous future, the mountains will remain. But the echoes of the innocent children living it will disappear, leaving only stillness and silence.