Thursday, June 21, 2007


26 November 2004 - The latest local film to hit the market Lhadha-gau is refreshing in many ways and, by far, leaves the sweetest taste.
Lhadha-gau is refreshing

Directed by Karma Tshering, Lhadha-gau is on the usual love story theme but it’s a story told with a different touch. Shot in Sakten and Lingzhi- it tells a story about a yak herder Lhadha-gau, played by Nguldrub Dorji, and his pursuit of a forbidden love that soon culminates in a dangerous confrontation with a social machinery devoted to their suppression.
The highlight of the film are, of course, the Brokpas of Sakten and their costumes which give the two hour film its unique touch. Not forgetting the breathtaking landscapes which gives much of the film’s visual and aural texture, thanks largely to fluid interesting camera shots and smooth editing.
But it’s not only that. The subtlety with which the film tucks in social, culture and traditional elements and insights of this popular yet obscure nomadic tribe into the story- is noteworthy. The “night hunting” scenes, predictably, elicit the most laughter from the audiences but, thankfully, are not vulgar.
The film has interesting characters. Nguldrub Dorji infuses much substance and life into the film, and he along with two other characters, one of whom has an acute weakness for booze and would do anything for it, brings out the funnier side of the film. Karma Chhoden as a new comer is convincing.
Beside the five main characters, the rest of the actors are all Brokpas. And if responses to the film are any indication, the whole package is a job done pretty well although it could have been better with a stronger story narration.
Costing nearly Nu. 2 million, the film took three months to complete and was shot entirely in Sakten and Lingzhi amid cold and rain. Filming entailed long hours of walk about the rugged terrain, carrying heavy equipment, and even took the film crew as far as to the borders of Arunachal Pradesh. Sakten is three days walk uphill from the nearest town, Trashigang.
Speaking to Kuensel, Karma Tshering said that he had tried making a movie profiling the Brokpa populace and its vanishing traditional practices. Semi-nomadic tribesmen and yak herders, Brokpas represent a time and a place that has marched to a different beat. But with modernisation their way of life was on course to a change, Karma said. Their distinctive dresses were already losing out on ghos and kiras.
These and other reasons have inspired Karma Tshering to try and take the film to international film festivals. In fact, he said, his film’s main target was the outside market.
While Lhadha-gau may not make international headlines, it just might inspire local film makers.
By Kencho Wangdi

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Bhutan's fledgling cinema influenced by Hollywood, Bollywood

By Syed Zarir Hussain, Indo-Asian News Service
First Published: 12:21 IST(5/6/2007)
Source: Hisdustan Times

When Hollywood star Demi Moore was taking a snapshot of her own blow-up tucked at a ramshackle video parlour in Bhutan, nobody noticed her - locals passed her off as another white skinned tourist visiting the Himalayan kingdom.

Nobody even gave them a second look when Richard Gere, Cameron Diaz, Mick Jagger or Keanu Reeves strolled the streets of Thimphu and other Bhutanese towns.

Largely isolated and not much exposed to the outside world until recently, Bhutan's dalliance with films began only in 1989 - Gasa Lamai Singye was the first movie made in the local Dzongkha language by Ugyen Wangdi, the pioneer of the country's fledgling cinema.

Bhutan's movie industry is in its infancy - just 89 movies made since 1989 - some of them, however, received rave reviews in the international media and got mainstream awards.

"Last year, Bhutan produced 22 digital films. Digital cinema is the key to Bhutan's movie industry. The Bhutanese audience lapped it up," Wangdi said.

There is just one cinema in Thimphu and seven in all across Bhutan, the Land of the Thunder Dragon of about 700,000 people.

The Luger Theatre in Thimphu that was set up in 1969 screens just Bhutanese language films all year round and is booked till next year. It takes nine months of waiting for a local language movie to get it turn for screening in the theatre.

Most of the films have plots based on traditional folklore, legends, culture, and history, although some of the movies made in recent years have the flavour of both Hollywood and Bollywood - with Hindi films and its songs influencing young Bhutanese filmmakers.

"The film Jig Drel made in 1997 had songs and music like you have in the Bollywood and that film actually transformed the movie scenario in Bhutan - it became an industry and also gave star status to actors," Sherub Gyaltshen, general secretary of the Motion Picture Association of Bhutan, told IANS.

Bhutanese films made its first big splash in Hollywood when Khyentse Norbu, a lama recognized as the incarnation of a 19th century Buddhist saint, completed his first feature film in 1999, a modest and supremely entertaining slice-of-life comedy called Phorpa or The Cup - the true story of a young Buddhist monk's impious obsession with watching the World Cup soccer finals on TV.

Phorpa picked up awards at the Pusan, Munich, and Toronto film festivals - the New York Times in a review described Norbu as "a born filmmaker."

In 2005, the revered monk made another big splash in the international film circuit with his Travellers & Magicians - filmed in Bhutan in the national language Dzongkha with English subtitles.

Young talented Bhutanese are taking up filmmaking as a career with the nation recently hosting the 6th National Film Awards at the famous Clock Tower Square in capital Thimphu.

The Nu 50-million ($1.2m) film industry has about 100 producers (55 of them members of the Association) and in all about 200 people, including technicians, earning their livelihood from the just born movie industry.

"The future of our film industry is very bright as without any financial support from the government we have been able to capture the Bhutanese market," said Dorji Wangchuk, an award winning documentary filmmaker and vice president of the Association.

Like in most films, strong religious beliefs and superstitions formed the core themes and one such movie, the "49th Day", grabbed seven awards including best film of the year.

"Bhutanese film industry is growing and the commitment and the zeal to make films focusing on culture and traditions is our hallmark," said Pema Rinzin, another well-known Bhutanese filmmaker.

Monday, June 4, 2007

"Chuu..." shouts Tshomo passing a traditional wooden cup filled with water. "Oh water," smiles Michael and takes the cup.

"Wotor?" repeats Tshomo making a funny face. The audience roars in laughter.
The comedy of a yak herder in Laya and an American tourist to Bhutan trying to communicate is one of the highlights of Druk ge goem (The Guest), the latest Bhutanese movie showing in Thimphu since March 24.
And the Bhutanese audience is enjoying it.
"The misinterpretation of the language with funny expressions kept me glued to the screen from the start," said Tenzin Choden, who emerged from the hall smiling.
The two and half hour romantic comedy, which was running full house until March 31, introduces Michael (Michael Harris) as a tourist from New York who gets lost on the way from Gasa to Laya.
He meets Tshomo (Dorji Wangmo) and the romance picks up in the midst of yaks and the isolated hills. The movie also shows glimpses of the activities carried out by the local tourism companies.
Many people who watched the movie said that they were drawn to the idea of having a foreigner in a Bhutanese movie.
The typical Bhutanese attitude towards foreigners, age-old cultures and practices, kindness and ignorance of remote people are brought out distinctly through Micheal's role.
According to the lead actress, Dorji Wangmo, who is also the producer and the script writer, the romantic theme was made possible only with the introduction of a foreigner as the lead actor.
Depicting the unique life style of yak herders of Laya and the breathtaking landscape and greenery of Soe-phu adds colour to the movie.
The movie was shot in Gasa, Laya, Paro and Soe-phu over the period of five months.
The five songs in the movie, including a Layap song and a song in English, has appealed to people of various age groups.
The director and the cameraman, Kinley Dorji, said the movie was an effort to present something new to Bhutanese moviegoers.
"Besides entertaining, the movie is about responsibility and respect and to treat the guests with perfect hospitality," he said.
Besides using crane shots and sound effects, a professional cameraman from South India was also hired, according to the director. "The cooperation of the Layaps made the movie making very easy," said Kinley Dorji.
By Kesang Dema