Piles of Bricks (Revisited) – Or, Where’s the $4 Billion?


May 2017

Nepali women working on the restoration of an ancient temple, December 2016.

It is the two-year anniversary of the 2015 mega-earthquake(s) in Nepal. The April 25 'quake registered 7.8 on the Richter scale with the May 12 aftershock registering 7.3. Thousands died and an untold numbers of homes were destroyed. Over four billion dollars in aid and rebuilding funds were pledged as the world came to Nepal’s relief.

TheoEco is currently producing a secular sister guerilla-documentary feature film to our recently released The Flourishing Kathmandu Churchentitled Piles of Bricks (Revisited), about the earthquake rebuilding efforts. In it we document the current state of residential housing and other projects, go to Nepal's rural villages, interview citizens, business people, and politicians both in the Kathmandu Valley and in Gorkha, all to try to answer the $4 billion question.

We went to Kathmandu in September of 2015 and filmed for more than two months. We went back late last year and kept filming through January of this year. The original Piles of Bricks was never widely released as the updated footage begged to be included—we wanted to show the before and after, especially alongside the story of the mountain of money that would surely make such a difference in these people’s lives.

Nepali construction workers repairing a road, December 2016.

While there has certainly been much accomplished in the rebuilding efforts of temples, a swanky new shopping mall in Lalitpur, and many private citizens rebuilding their homes as best they can, few have received more than a few hundred dollars from the government to rebuild--which all leads to a big question: Where’s the $4 billion?

No one seems to know.

Many of the same folks from The Flourishing Kathmandu Church are in the new film, this time in their mostly secular capacities. We see their state of affairs shortly after the 'quakes in 2015, and again over a year later. We track much of the progress, or lack thereof, for all to see (and question).

Surely, there are many reasons for the lack of apparent progress, like the Indian blockade beginning September 2015 that continued well into 2016, and the fact that the country is a new democracy still finding its way. But most with familiarity with Nepal think that corruption and a lack of transparency has much to do with the lack of funds making their way to the citizens.

Destroyed home in Harisiddhi, September 2015.

Why does it matter? Because there was a great deal of attention and outpouring at the time of the earthquake, and many countries, businesses, and individuals promised huge sums when the pictures hit the media back in April of 2015. The money needs to get to where it is needed most--not get hung up or simply evaporate. It needs to get to where it is needed most not only for the Nepalese, but for the next disaster on par with Nepal’s. Otherwise, all may think twice before extending a hand as they did so generously this time.

As we see in the film, people are not counting on the aid from the government or elsewhere. Many are already rebuilding their homes from resources collected by family members deciding to live together with their extended families. We see families in the villages and in Kathmandu with little more than a zinc sheet covering old brick walls which are in danger of collapsing in on themselves.

The film is produced and directed by Steve and Bobbie Richards of TheoEco, who originally departed to Kathmandu in 2015. There they were introduced to Amit Nepali by the Anglican Church. Amit acts as editor, interpreter, guide, composer, and other key roles in the film. Filmed and edited in Nepal, Piles of Bricks (Revisited) is almost two years in the making and scheduled for release in late 2018.