Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Idea of a Picture

Um, sorry if I will sound like a filmy professor, but just couldn't help making the following notes...*grin*

Filmmaking is a tricky business involving deligence, perseverance, intelligence and a huge sum of money. Like any other forms of Art, films demand an 'out of the world' portrayal of everything...The idea is to mirror the society that we live in. From there, we can either choose to blow-up or shrink the truth (or lies) depending on themes.

As we watch a film, we are dragged into its plot and (seemingly and superficial) realism. From there, we are made to believe the 'story' that it tells and shows. What is on the screen is not everything. What lies out and beyond the frames is equally or sometimes more important.

Emotions must be expressed rather than spoken. I don't think it is necessary for an angry man to say, 'I'm angry', or show a beautiful scene and say, 'wow! It's beautiful', or run a mile and say, 'man, I'm tired!'

View of scenic mountains rippling over the distant horizon, the sunset turning the floating clouds golden, birds chirp, a gentle breeze blows rustling the leaves, cattles call onto each other...where is the need for a background music?

This is funny and equally ridiculous. You fall in love. You sing, dancing around the trees, on top of mountains and hills and under the waterfalls in multitudes of colours, your face beaming with lifetime of grin only to be thawed with the introduction of a steadfast and evil in-laws or a very evil-minded and crooked-looking rival who will always lose in the great battle of love...

Friday, February 23, 2007

Price of Knowledge

Price of Knowledge, 2000 35 min
Written and Directed by Ugyen Dorji
Ugetsu Communications

Day by day, 11 year old Sherab Dorji walks three hours to school. In the early morning he meets the other children of his village at a chorten, a Buddhist shrine. From there, they walk to school together singing. The road leads across a mountain and through the woods. The parents are constantly afraid of their children meeting up with wild animals along the path. When Sherab walks the last part by himself in the evening, he prays aloud to fight his fear. They walk so much, his father says, that their socks tear within a week. Sherab's family depends on subsistence farming. The mother and sister especially work very hard. They stay out at night protecting their crops against wild boars. Thus Yonten Gi Kawa depicts life in rural Bhutan.

Awards (San Francisco International Film Festival, 2000)

1. Documentary
2. Certificate of Merit (Film And Video) - Society And Culture International

Thursday, February 22, 2007

School Among Glaciers - An Award Winning Documentary

School Among Glaciers
Directed by Dorji Wangchuk
72 min.

School Among Glaciers is a compelling documentary about a schoolteacher who sets out on a 14-day journey on foot to Lunana. He survives a number of narrow trails and high passes including the dreadful 5,200 meter high Gangla Karchung Pass. He finally settles under very harsh living conditions in Lunana, 4,500 meters above sea level, for five months.Here are semi nomadic tribes such as the Layaps and the Lunaps. With just over 1000 people, the Lunaps are considered the most backward people of Bhutan. However, they have their language, customs and culture, which they are jealously proud of. They inhabit one of the most inhospitable valleys in Bhutan. They live on Yaks producing butter, cheese and hides, which they trade with the lower valleys of Bhutan.The teacher soon learns that there is a great deal more knowledge and wisdom in these simple nomads than originally thought. He therefore proceeds to explore the way of life, native wisdoms and local traditions of this amazing people as has never been done before.

1. Hoso Bunka Foundation Award, Japan, 2003
2. Audience Award Winner 2005 Int'l Documentary Festival 2005, Seoul, South Korea
3. Award (?), Switzerland

Other Award winning Documentaries by Dorji Wangchuck

Long Walk to Education - SRG SSR idée suisse Prize, Switzerland
Rocking the Himalayan Kingdom - Award (?), Japan

Monday, February 19, 2007


Tshe Chonga or whatever, a recent movie being played in Bhutan is reported to be a remake of a hit Nepali film. Now talking of remakes, why on earth do our filmmakers want to copy other people's work of art? We have our own story to tell, our own tradition to show, our own pride to chew...

Maybe I am wrong (I wish I were wrong!), but this remake thing is too embarrassing (at least to me). I didn't even watch the Oscar Nominated The Departed, since it was a remake of hit Hongkong flick, The Infernal Affairs.

Um, what was that Bhutanese film that was a remake of Korean movie, My Sassy Girl?

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Who is afraid of Death?

Borrowed from Kuenselonline

Movie Review 5 January, 2007 - Movie Review The Death (Chi Da), the latest Bhutanese film screening in Thimphu appears to have instilled a sense of fear among its viewers on the consequences of promiscuity and substance abuse. In that context the film fulfills the objective it was made for: to create awareness on HIV/AIDS and substance abuse.

The film also tries to portray other emerging issues of urbanisation such as lack of quality family time and divorce through an HIV/AIDS infected person who comes out in the open to tell his story.

The two and half-hour film is a flashback with the protagonist played by Gyem Dorji narrating his life in an interview to the TV media.

His life is in a way destined from the consequences of his childhood. He grows up
neglected by his parents and finally when they divorce, he has to cope with the hurtful separation, especially from his sister (Deki) whom he is attached to.

In stereotypical fashion, his mother showers him with money to ease her guilt and ends up spoiling him. As the years go by he begins to find more and more comfort in various drugs. He also gets into few relationships with women.

Most of the people who watched the film said that it was educative and entertaining. Some viewers said that they did not enjoy the scenes portraying the use of drugs. “The depiction could encourage our youngsters to do it instead of deterring them,” said one viewer.

The film, which began screening in Thimphu two weeks ago, has been running to full house during holidays and weekends.

Since the first detection of HIV/ AIDs in 1993, about 101 have been detected with the infection.

By Passang Norbu (passa@kuensel.com.bt)

Is this a movie review? I mean, with all due respects to the writer and the national newspaper of Bhutan, so many things are missing here...What happend to the Director, Producer, Photographer, blah, blah...? Are they not supposed to appear in the review?

Friday, February 9, 2007

Why Bhutanese Films Sing and Dance?

It can happen anytime, anywhere, anyhow.

Be it a family drama, a sick-to-the-core romantic comedy, a bucket-filling romantic tragedy, a what-is-this-all-about film, you will get it. A guaranteed ordeal during your Bhutanese movie watching experience.

They, I mean, the hero and heroine of the film (and maybe a side-kick or two to make them move) are falling in love. It’s so evident. I mean, you know it when ‘they’ are about to fall in love, right? Maybe…but you know this time. The scene changes. Even the colour and what is that? Ah, music! They are totally in a different place now. What? Are they wearing those out-of-the-closet kingly and queenly dresses?

Yes, there you have it now! A Song! Totally out of the blue!

They are in love! Lord!

Waterfalls…mountains after mountains…apple blossoms…lush green landscape…Spring! There! I cannot look. What was that for? Dancing those dance steps around the trees…Nice! Perfect lip-sync…Where are they now? What place is that? Where is it?


Anyway, they sing and dance around the trees along the stream and up by the hillside and down by that valley when they are in love, happy, sad, and when someone in the film dies. For all occasions, you would say?

I know, I know, Bhutanese films are influenced by Bollywood films. But is it our standard? Is it our style? Is it our tradition?

At one instant we say we are not colonised by any foreign nation, then we blatantly include such practice in our lifestyles. What is colonisation if not this?

Thursday, February 8, 2007

A Short History of Filmmaking in Bhutan

The year 1989 marked the beginning of filmmaking in Bhutan with the production of Gasa Lamai Singye, produced by Ugyen Wangdi (Ugetsu Communications). Based on true events, it tells a tragic romantic story between Gasa Lamai Singye and Galem, often comparable to William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.

Equipped with handheld video camcorder, the first filmmakers often perspired to generate the final cut. Hardly supported by the government and without enough knowledge about the art of filmmaking, the filmmakers pursued filmmaking almost as hobbies.

Films and Filmmaking grew popular with the release of Jigdrel. A Norling Drayang Productions, the film was a remake of a hit Hollywood flick, Untamed Heart. Films saw major change with the advent of digital filmmaking equipments. Pekhang Audio Visuals' Chepai Bu boasts of using such extravagant equipments. A tear jerker till the end, the film was an instant hit that grossed one of the highest box office collection in Bhutan.

Besides some documentaries, feature length films have hardly graced the silverscreens abroad. Khyentse Norbu's Travellers and Magicians is dubbed as the first feature to be shot entirely in Bhutan, which also won a couple of film awards around the world.

What started out as hobbies, filmmaking became a lucrative business venture. But generating financial returns from a single production is a far cry, especially if the film lacked quality and failed to woo the reluctant Bhutanese audience who seem to raise their expectations with each film release.

A total of around 60 movies have been produced from 1989 t0 the end of 2005 with a total of 36 registered film production houses (according to Motion Picture Association of Bhutan).