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).