the girl Shanta, who the documentary is based upon
January 29, 2015

LACEY, Wash. – Amy Benson, an independent documentary filmmaker in Seattle, will discuss her film, “Drawing the Tiger,” an intimate portrait of a Nepali family whose chance to break its cycle of poverty disappears with the untimely death of their scholarly daughter, at the next Robert A. Harvie Social Justice Lecture. The lecture, which is free and open to the public, will be held on Friday, February 6, at 4 p.m., in Harned Hall #110, located on the Saint Martin’s University campus, 5000 Abbey Way SE, in Lacey.

Filmed over seven years, the film follows the family of Shanta, a gifted student, and how the Darnal family struggles to survive when this determined scholarship recipient ends her own life. The promising student provided her family with a chance to break their cycle of poverty when she is awarded her scholarship to attend school in the city. The Darnals expected her to return to their village as a doctor and ease their impoverishment. After Shanta’s death, her relatives must cope with the lost opportunity they had hoped would change their fates.

The film was the result of a video project about the power of girls’ education in the developing world that was made for an NGO, which is a common term for a non-governmental organization that performs a variety of service and humanitarian functions.

After Shanta’s death, the NGO removed her from its promotional materials. But Benson and her Nepali co-director, Ramyata Limbu, persisted with telling Shanta’s story about the ‘why’ of her suicide through documenting the lives of her family. As the film unfolds over the seven-year period, global development watchwords come to life: less than a dollar a day, illiteracy, child marriage, migration. Factors not commonly measured – self-esteem, faith, mental health and marital love – tell this family’s story.

Benson is co-owner of Nonfiction Media, a production company in Seattle. She has shot and directed more than 25 short films, telling the stories of nonprofits in the Pacific Northwest, Africa and Asia. Her personal documentary short – “Three: Impressions from the Struggle for Girls’ Education” – was the centerpiece of the UNIFEM Singapore film festival.

Another short, “Called to Shine,” about Clarksdale, Mississippi’s only female preacher, premiered at the Langston Hughes film festival. Benson’s very first short about the life in a local homeless encampment won awards from SIFF and the Seattle Times. “Drawing the Tiger” is her first feature film.

The Robert A. Harvie Social Justice Lecture Series, now in its ninth year, was created by Saint Martin’s University Professor of Criminal Justice Robert Hauhart, Ph.D., J.D., chair of the University’s Department of Society and Social Justice, to raise awareness of social justice issues within the community. The series honors the work of Robert A. Harvie, J.D., former professor and chair of the Department of Criminal Justice at Saint Martin’s.

For more information, contact Robert Hauhart at 360-438-4525 or

Saint Martin’s University is an independent, four-year, coeducational university located on a wooded campus of more than 300 acres in Lacey, Washington. Established in 1895 by the Catholic Order of Saint Benedict, the University is one of 14 Benedictine colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, and the only one west of the Rocky Mountains. Saint Martin’s University prepares students for successful lives through its 25 majors and seven graduate programs spanning the liberal arts, business, education, nursing and engineering. Saint Martin’s welcomes nearly 1,200 undergraduate students and 323 graduate students from many ethnic and religious backgrounds to its Lacey campus, and 350 more students to its extended campuses located at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Centralia College and Tacoma Community College.

For additional information:

Robert Hauhart, Ph. D., J.D.
Chair, Department of Society and Social Justice

Meg Nugent Dwyer
Media relations manager