It’s been a stirring experience covering breakout Puerto Rican action star, martial artist and actor Jose Manuel. Between amassing a body of work via his North Compass banner and pursuing greater prospects, I was long hopeful to see him be an example that I’ve lived to observe in folks like Eric Jacobus and Dennis Ruel in their endeavors. These guys come from a crop of rising star talent that needs constant nourishing – much like Manuel who himself has had a pretty prospective 2018 with his second feature film leading role now lying in wait.
Enter The Man From Kathmandu, a project that was long in development and at one point had Umar Khan up to star in the lead role with Pema D. Gakyil in the director’s chair. At the time, Gakyil was still casting amid pre-production and development and as the story goes, things tend to pivot when hurdles arise. As it stands though, The Man From Kathmandu loses nothing by casting Manuel in his second starring headliner in six years since paving the way in 2012 with Andres Ramirez’s El Testigo, essentially becoming the U.S. commonwealth’s first martial arts action star.
The Man From Kathmandu, in his second feature film lead role, sees Manuel in the role of Faisal, a disaffected Nepali, half-Hindu Muslim-American teen in trouble with the law. Hoping to find his father whom he believes to have joined the war in Syria, Faisal spirits away from Los Angeles to Kathmandu at the behest of an ISIS recruiter. Once there, he instead stumbles upon an ongoing land-grab dispute between his grandfather who runs a refugee camp for earthquake victims, and a politically ambitious kingpin who has illegally occupied the camp for his own means. What then ensues for Faisal, who is also a highly skilled martial artist, is a chance to not only reconnect with his roots as well as his good-willed childhood sweetheart, Namrata, but also to uncover the truth about his father and put an end to a ruthless criminal organization.
Gakyil shared his reasons for filming in Kathmandu in a director’s statement on the official website, citing its “ancient and modern feel” and air of “spiritual unity”. He says it was also crucial to the story he wanted to tell, which I think adds even more congruence to its action adventure narrative. In my view, it speaks to the ills of evil’s intent upon young, impressionable minds, and the wills of someone seeking redemption and a cause to believe in that surpasses his own bereavement and suffering.
“People traveling to join ISIS have a sense of belonging and feeling of usefulness which I thought was a good plot point.” Gakyil says. “If these confused people become engaged in different meaningful endeavors than they are misled into I believe they will change. So, I began writing ‘The man from Kathmandu’ as a different story from among the 20,000 others that have joined ISIS.”
Manuel is also slated to appear in the upcoming martial arts action comedy, Made In Chinatown from directors Art Camacho and Robert Samuels and starring Jay Kwon in his own lead acting debut. The role will actually be a small one, while fans keen on following Manuel can gladly look further to The Man From Kathmandu being a more grand scale martial arts epic from an independent stand point, and with Manuel himself designating the kinetic fight choreography as he did on El Testigo, and the North Compass-produced proof pilot, Compromised, among others.
Manuel is joined by actor Gulshan Grover-Abu and actress Anna Sharma among those starring. The film’s official website got an upgrade since production began signaling the premiere of the official teaser trailer now live and at the top of this page, as well as the poster which you can view below.
Native New Yorker. Lover of all things pizza, chocolate, pets, and good friends. Karaoke hero. Left of center. Survivor. Fond supporter of cult, obscure and independent cinema - especially fond of Asian movies and global action cinema. Author of the bi-weekly Hit List. Founder and editor of Film Combat Syndicate. Still, very much, only human.