Monday, April 30, 2007

Six Boys

In 1996 six boys disappeared in the forest above the Tango monastery. The incident triggered country-wide concern and a massive rescue mission.
Twelve days later four boys were found in Punakha with two dead in the forest from fatigue and starvation.
The nightmare the boys lived through is the subject of a new film that has realistically captured the ordeal of being lost in one of the country’s thickest forests.
Shot in real locations, the film traces the travails of the six boys from Begana, Thimphu, on that fateful dry-picnic trip to Dhomendey peak, about six hours walk from Tango monastery, which went horribly wrong.
The film brings vivid images of the boys’ painful struggle to keep themselves alive without food and amid blood-sucking leeches and insects, made worse by the forest’s terrain. Frustrated, starved and beaten the boys trudge on though never really finding a way out of the forests they come to hate and dread. Throughout the journey though, the boys’ hope never subsides even when death hits them.
Written, produced and directed by Karma Tshering of the Jigdrel fame, the true story ‘6 Boys’ is also a breathe of fresh air- it’s 1:45 minutes long with one song and it has no tragic melodrama. The camera movement is fluid and the dialogues short. Careful editing and a good background music to accompany the film’s nuances could have made the film better.
The film benefits from a strong cast in that the main actors are all first timers, and they play their part well. The six actors, aged 11-18, are school-dropouts; two are small time restaurant waiters, another two are street doma sellers, one is a monk and the oldest is an unemployed youngster. The tough task though was making them remember the dialogue.
Director Karma recalled how he was rattled mid-way through a shooting one day when he heard that the boys were planning to dump the film and run away. The boys had complained that their breakfast and lunch was being cut down. The director had wanted the boys to be pale and hungry to look authentic. The director barely managed to coax the angry boys to stay.
Shooting wasn’t easy either. Two rainy months in the forest with heavy equipment was a challenge in itself.
For Director Karma, the film was a dream come true. “It’s a long awaited film for me,” Karma said. “I wanted to show to people what really happened in those 12 days.” He worked five years on the film. The interviews with the surviving four boys and the several difficult months trying to convince their parents about the movie was a test.
It is hard to gauge how the film, which opened yesterday in the Luger theatre, will do, given that it has the enormous job of weaning moviegoers away from the usual bollywood takeoffs complete with songs and tears.
By Kencho Wangdi

Monday, April 23, 2007

Bhutan Film in NY!

Choe Da Jigten
Dzongkha with English subtitles

Show : Only One
Date : 6 May 2007
Time : 3:00 pm
Venue : Eagle Movie Theatre,

73-07 Street,Jackson Heights,
New York

The film "The Divine and the Mundane" delves into the inner turmoil of a monk torn between spiritualism and materialism. Choeda(played by Gyem Dorji) the main character, is the most learned monk in a remote monastery.One day he is overcome with self-doubt and beings to question his existence. He abandons his faith in the pursuit of a material life only to suffer every conceivable misery.How will Choeda find peace and happiness?Will he be able to repent his sins?Find out your self Gyem Dorji who plays the lead role in the movie is one the finest actors in Bhutan's rapidly evolving film industry. He has won numerous national awards for acting, script and spoken national language.
Kinley Peldon who plays the lead actress has also been recognized for her acting skills at the national level.
Director Chencho Dorji is among the upcoming breed of filmmakers with professional skills in direction and film editing.
Two popular Bhutanese singers, Nidup Dorji & Rinchen Namgay, play the supporting roles.

Produced by: Karma Lhaden Dorji

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Jigthar - MovieReview

Historical facts blended with fiction, more action than dialogue and no dancing around trees makes “Jigthar - the escape”, the latest Bhutanese movie, different. Currently screening at the Lugar theatre in Thimphu, the one hour 50 minutes film attempts to portray an ancient legend of the Saktenpas, a nomadic community who inhabit northern Trashigang.

The legend is about Sakten’s brave ancestors, how they fought with a cruel lord, their escape and their settling at a base of the mountain in northern Bhutan later named as Sakten.
On screen since May 20, some section of viewers enjoyed the movie. “I am glad that I finally got to see a realistic Bhutanese movie,” said an elderly man.
Those who liked the movie also found the plot and the actions realistic. “The technical and sound effects were good,” another viewer said.
Many on the other hand, especially those who expected much of a usual romantic- tragedy sequence, were disappointed. “ I did not even shed a tear,” said a lady outside Lugar theatre.
The second movie to be shot on location in picturesque Sakten, actor, producer and director, Kesang P Jigme said that the film used facts about Sakten and mixed it with the country’s security issues to present a film that was a step away from the contemporary trend.
Shooting in Sakten proved to be fun said the crewmembers. “We employed the entire villager for a month and they were really co-operative,” said Sonam D Dorjee, producer and one of the actors in the film.
But Sakten’s unique culture was slowly disappearing according to Sonam D Dorji. “We had a tough time getting the original Sakten costumes. It is now being replaced by tracksuits sold in the market,” he said.
Kesang P. Jigme said the film purposely avoided the ‘dancing around the tree’ scenes to make the movie more realistic. The film also has English subtitles.
Kesang P Jigme and Kinga Wangmo are the lead cast in the film which was shot with a budget of Nu.1.5 million according to the producers.
Jigthar is the first movie produced jointly by KesJig and Samsara Films.
By Kesang Dema

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Big Screen Magic: Where has it gone?

Bhutanese love watching movies. And it all began in the mid sixties when the first movie theatres in the country opened in Phuentsholing.
Entire families, senior government officials, students on their way to school, cash crop farmers from the hills and tea garden workers from across the border in India filled the movie halls to amuse themselves with Bollywood melodrama.
In another few years movie theatres opened in capital, and in the growing towns of Gelephu, Samdrup Jongkhar, Gomtu and Samtse. The “mass experience” of going to a theatre spread fast.
Not getting a ticket for a popular movie meant a major disappointment. Knowing someone who could sell you a ticket in black could brighten the day. The pushing and pulling and fighting at the pigeonhole ticket counter was a “prelude to the swelling act”.
The theatre was the place to meet and see people. In Thimphu the Lugar theatre began screening old English movies that everyone enjoyed and no one complained about.
The theatres flourished through the 70s and by 80s. Then it began to change when the video cassette recorder came in. It immediately became a status symbol. Everyone wanted one.
Meanwhile, the movie halls began to deteriorate. The toilets began to smell, the paint peeled off of the walls, the seats began to tear, the curtains jammed.
By the mid 90s as home entertainment technology shifted to video compact disc (VCD) and satellite television signals could be caught if one had an antennae, the theatres faded further in the background.
Today movie theatres across the country appear to be struggling and look dilapidated and run down. The aura of excitement that flowed from the curtains of the big screen and pervaded the vicinity of the theatre halls has been replaced by one of apathy.
The only thing keeping theatres going is the local movie productions. Without them most of the movie halls in the country would be dead by now. Thimphu’s Lugar theatre is riding on the rush of local screenings that partially fill the big screen and draw the crowds.
Phuentsholing’s Mig and Norgay cinemas today run to vacant seats. Posters of a brooding long-haired Bollywood heartthrob, Salman Khan, barely draws more than a dozen people.
Theatre employees attribute the dwindling business to piracy of newly released movies and the advent of cable television.
But movie buffs maintain that it is more to do with the run down state of the theatres that are keeping viewers away.
“Since movies came to Bhutan in the 60s the Bhutanese viewer has changed but the theatres have not,” said a Phuentsholing resident. “Today people want a theatre to offer that ambience of an amusement centre.”
The movie theatre business seems to be caught in a vicious cycle. With dwindling viewership it does not make enough to get new releases which cost about Nu.100,000 a week according to Rajiv of Mig cinema. Movies, which are a month old, cost about 50 percent less. “But by that time pirated CDs and DVDs are already out in the market,” said Rajiv. A pirated movie CD can be bought for about Nu. 20 in Phuentsholing and the bordering town of Jaigaon.
In the border towns tight security measures have cut into the viewership where a majority of the viewers are from across the border.
Theatre business in Gelephu and Samdrup Jongkhar suffered the most because of the security situation in the neighbouring Indian state of Assam. Night shows were completely stopped and viewers from across the border restricted. The Gelephu’s Losal cinema shut for several years in the mid 90s partially killing the town.
Samdrup Jongkhar’s Bhutan Talkies came to a standstill as the Bhutan gate was “sealed” in an effort to further beef up security within Bhutan. “Our main customers were our Indian friends from across the border,” said Chandi Das Saha, 45, who managed Bhutan Talkies for 10 years.
Chandi Das Saha remembers those days when scores of packed buses from India brought in hundreds of people into Bhutan with a dual purpose of picnicking in Samdrup Jongkhar and watching a movie.
Bhutan Talkies also saw customers from all eastern dzongkhags. Rural folks went to Gudama (old name for Samdrup Jongkhar) bursting with excitement to watch the big screen.
“Dara Singh was so popular people addressed him Dasho Dara Singh,” recollects a Trashigang resident, Tshering Dorji.
For the last couple of years Bhutan Talkies has been screening only Bhutanese films. Bhutanese producers screen the films and pay Bhutan Talkies the rental fees for the shows.
Today the average Bhutanese home in the urban areas own a VCD player and a television set to watch movies but people still long for the magic of the big screen. “Watching King Kong on video and on the silver screen are two different things,” says a Thimphu movie buff.
Which explains why many Bhutanese, when out of the country, make sure they watch a movie on the big screen.
Kesang, a corporate employee, on the third day of her first visit to Singapore, rushed off to see the recently released Da Vinci Code based on Dan Brown’s bestseller in the ambience of an air-conditioned hall with reclining seats and digital sound.

From Kuenselonline, Kinley Wangmo and Gopilal Acharya

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Should performing artists receive state support?

By Younten Dorji, Kuenselonline, 8 March, 2007

The Bhutanese film and audio-visual industry, representing the informal sector of the performing arts in the country, has rapidly evolved in recent years.Every year young but untrained artists join the industry to make a mark and a living. Local productions dominate the screenings in the country’s movie theatres and modern Bhutanese musical scores can be heard across the country.

Some actors and singers have become household names and even boast a fan base and people with funds are finding out that investing in local productions can be lucrative.

But according to Tshering Gyeltshen of TG Media & Infotainment the future of the performing arts in Bhutan looks set to languish in mediocrity. This was because of the absence of an enabling environment where artists received due recognition and institutional, organizational and financial support.

In a discussion paper, which he presented at the WIPO Sub regional Roundtable in Paro last week, Tshering Gyeltshen gave several reasons for the ‘rather gloomy’ future of the performing arts in Bhutan.

According to him traditionally in Bhutan the fine or visual arts was always accorded a higher place of pride than a folk singer or a mask dancer. Given the practical scheme of things whether somebody could sing or dance did not matter as much as whether one could build a strong durable house or produce a fine sculpture.

Performing arts in Bhutan, with the exception of mask dances, therefore evolved not as an artistic pursuit but more as a peripheral cultural expression. Such a cultural inclination and bias exists to this day according to Tshering Gyeltshen.

The Royal Academy of Performing Arts established decades ago had not contributed much to the growth and development of the performing arts in the country and RAPA were today largely relegated to entertaining guests during official functions.

In the informal sector the growing number of artists in the burgeoning audio-visual industry lacked guidance and any form of support from any quarters.

While the need for performing arts and artists seemed to be absent in the national scheme of things artists themselves were ignorant about their own roles, responsibilities and significance in society.

Local artists also faced tremendous competition from work by foreign artists in film, music, dance and drama, which were more professional, technically superior and better packaged.
“The common attitude appears to be: Well, who needs local performing artists when we have better choices?” according to Tshering Gyeltshen.

Local artists also had no idea of how to address rampant piracy from across the border and copyright violation within the country.

The discussion paper recommended state recognition and support to Bhutanese artists to inspire create and nurture the art and the artist as the sector was still in a formative stage instead of lambasting them as copycats. The paper states that such a situation prevails because artists do not have opportunities for professional growth.

It also called for a proper, modern, well-conceived, and well-implemented syllabus and curriculum for RAPA so that it can conduct itself as an academy in the truest sense of the word. It also recommended of a collective management society to protect and promote the interest of artists in Bhutan.

The secretary of the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Dasho Karma Dorji, said that the government was doing its best within its limited resources.

He said that several outstanding Bhutanese artists were honored with national awards in recognition of their contribution to the arts. He pointed out that education in Bhutan was still free giving the new breed of artists in the audio visual industry at least a basic foundation to start off on.

“Artists must themselves endeavor for their creation,” said Dasho Karma Dorji during the roundtable. “Creation of an art comes with time, hard work and individual innovation.” The participants felt that the creation of a Collective Management Society in Bhutan was quite complex because local users preferred the foreign product.

The creation of such a society would dictate all users to pay royalty which would mean that Bhutanese would be required to pay more royalty to foreign artist, which many would not want to do given the low awareness on intellectual property.

What was even more complicated was that many Bhutanese productions were take offs of Hollywood and Bollywood films. Copying ideas and scripts, the participants felt, were a violation of intellectual property rights.

The regional director Ang Kwee Tiang, CISAC, told Kuensel that it would be advisable for Bhutan to first set a CMO that functions only within the country for some years. In course of time, the concept of intellectual property right amongst the public would develop automatically and the country would then be fit to go global.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Lay Ngen Bum - Review

25 January, 2007 - What direction life takes often depends on the choices one makes. Some look rosy and promising on the outside but are full of thorns and pain on the inside.Lay ngen bum (ill fated girl) which is screening at the Lugar theatre in Thimphu appears to be a tale of wrong choices and living with its consequences.

A love story with social messages on teenage pregnancy and smooth talking strangers the two hours twenty-five minutes film seems to have impressed some viewers with the camera direction and acting.

Karma Choden (Dechen) is impressive as the school girl who falls for a smooth talking contractor. She gets pregnant with the contractor’s child and on moving to Thimphu, the contractor doesn’t accept her.

All the while her friend and schoolmate Tobdhen, also from the same village, is in love with her but unable to express his love.

“The film portrays that it takes a whole lifetime and even beyond that to know a person well so you just can’t go on trusting everyone”, says Sonam, a viewer.

The film also tries to convey that love and happiness cannot be bought.

Some viewers, however, found the film to be another run of the mill product wrought with few unnecessary scenes.

The film was produced by Thinley Wangchuk and shot in Druzhegang and Thimphu over 48 days. “The movie is based on the social issues,” said Thinley Wangchuk.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Price of Knowledge @ YouTube

Thanks to kotadaza, the award winning documentary, Price of Knowledge is available at YouTube...yes, the entire film!!! You can have a peek...or watch all the parts :)

part 1 of 7