A Grow­ing In­dus­try

Small coun­tries like Bhutan con­sider the film in­dus­try as an out­stand­ing op­por­tu­nity to de­velop its art and cul­ture. There is grow­ing in­ter­est in em­brac­ing new tech­niques, en­gag­ing new au­di­ences and gain­ing new mar­kets to­wards build­ing a stronger na­tiona

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By Mu­kee Bano The writer is a mem­ber of the staff.

Bhutan pre­dom­i­nantly stayed in iso­la­tion and was not ex­posed to the out­side world un­til lately. It is one of the least de­vel­oped coun­tries in South Asia, with poverty, lack of hu­man re­sources, lit­tle progress and eco­nomic vul­ner­a­bil­ity. It fol­lows the gross na­tional hap­pi­ness (GNH) in­dex in­stead of the stan­dard gross do­mes­tic prod­uct (GDP) for­mula to mea­sure the well-be­ing and hap­pi­ness of its peo­ple. The GNH con­cept was evolved in 1972 by Bhutan’s fourth king and it adopted GNH as its main de­vel­op­ment in­di­ca­tor. In 2011, The UN Gen­eral As­sem­bly passed a res­o­lu­tion in­spired by Bhutan’s vi­sion of the hap­pi­ness of its peo­ple. Bhutan’s ma­jor in­dus­tries are agri­cul­ture and forestry but the film in­dus­try has also played a vi­tal role in con­nect­ing and shap­ing the coun­try’s per­cep­tion in the world. In a short span, films have be­come a lead­ing in­dus­try in the coun­try.

Bhutanese cinema is young but mod­estly di­verse com­pared to neigh­bour­ing coun­tries and em­ploys hun­dreds of peo­ple. What is in­ter­est­ing is that it is play­ing a strong role in es­tab­lish­ing lo­cal con­tent and in pro­mot­ing Dzongkha (the Bhutanese lan­guage) and cul­ture.

Bhutan's as­so­ci­a­tion with films be­gan in 1989. Gasa La­mai Singye was the first film made in the lo­cal Dzongkha lan­guage by Ugyen Wangdi, the pioneer of the coun­try's cinema. The film was based on a tragic love story and was com­pared to Wil­liam Shake­speare's Romeo and Juliet. Af­ter this, many lo­cal film­mak­ers started mak­ing films.

In 1999, Khyentse Norbu, a Ti­betan lama (teacher) and film­maker took Bhutanese cinema to Amer­ica which was a fea­ture film called ‘Phorpa’ (The Cup). It was based on the true story of a young Bud­dhist monk's pas­sion for watch­ing the world cup soc­cer fi­nals on TV. Phorpa was se­lected for awards at the Pu­san, Mu­nich and Toronto film fes­ti­vals and Norbu was men­tioned as "a born film­maker" by the New York Times.

An­other film ‘Trav­ellers and Ma­gi­cians‘ was made by Norbu in 2003 which re­ceived crit­i­cal ac­claim. It was the first film to be shot in Bhutan. It was in the Dzongkha lan­guage with English sub­ti­tles. Some sources say that in the same year, a doc­u­men­tary “School Among Glaciers (Bhutan 2003)” won in­ter­na­tional awards such as “Hoso Bunka Foun­da­tion” and “Au­di­ence.” “The holder” a short film was shown at the Cannes and Brussels Film Fes­ti­val.

From then on­wards, the film in­dus­try in Bhutan has flour­ished.

The in­dus­try is gen­er­ally in­spired by In­dian films. The main­stream cinema is pri­mar­ily based on com­mer­cial films in­volv­ing love themes. Some films are com­bi­na­tions of so­cial is­sues, tra­di­tional cen­tral plots, songs, dances, com­pli­cated re­la­tions and fights. The art film has also shown some progress in Bhutan.

Since 2010, films from Bhutan have ap­peared more fre­quently at film fes­ti­vals. The “Beskop Film Fes­ti­val” is or­gan­ised by lo­cal film­mak­ers for short Bhutanese films. It opens a gate­way for film pro­fes­sion­als and cul­tural en­trepreneurs from Aus­tralia, USA, South Korea, Ja­pan, Den­mark and other coun­tries.

The film “Jig Drel” made in 1997 had songs and music like In­dian films. The film ac­tu­ally trans­formed the film sce­nario in Bhutan. It was then that the Bhutanese cinema be­came an in­dus­try and also gave some kind of a star sta­tus to ac­tors, ac­cord­ing to Sherub Gyalt­shen, gen­eral sec­re­tary of thehe Mo­tion Pic­ture As­so­ci­a­tion of Bhutan. .

A boom fol­lowed, mainly be­cause se of in­de­pen­dent film­mak­ers and d the Bhutan Film Trust, a non-profit fit or­gan­i­sa­tion which sup­ports tal­ented d Bhutanese film pro­fes­sion­als. A new w film as­so­ci­a­tion, Cine Bhutan, was s launched in 2015 to pro­mote and d pro­tect films. The in­for­ma­tion andd com­mu­ni­ca­tions min­is­ter of Bhutan also es­tab­lished a film com­mis­sion re­spon­si­ble for ad­ver­tis­ing, de­vel­op­ment and sup­port for the au­dio-visual and film in­dus­try.

Funded by the gov­ern­ment, the con­struc­tion of a four-storey com­plex specif­i­cally for film­mak­ing is an­other mile­stone of the film in­dus­try in Bhutan. It houses of­fices es of the Bhutan Film As­so­ci­a­tion, class­rooms, a con­fer­ence cen­tre, film stu­dios, etc. It has been de­signed to pro­vide film­mak­ers with a con­trolled en­vi­ron­ment in which to shoot films and to fur­ther im­prove film­mak­ing in Bhutan.

“We have been work­ing on our com­put­ers for sound de­sign­ing and when shown on the big screen, the sound is dif­fer­ent. The same goes with colour grad­ing. This is chal­leng­ing be­cause if we screen our movies abroad, the colour and sound re­ally mat­ter,” says Mila Tob­gyel, Pres­i­dent of the Bhutan Film As­so­ci­a­tion.

The Bhutan Film As­so­ci­a­tion (BFA) is per­suad­ing the gov­ern­ment to amend the For­eign Di­rect In­vest­ment (FDI) pol­icy to re­move films from the neg­a­tive list which is a hur­dle to at­tract­ing in­ter­na­tional in­vest­ment in the film sec­tor and open up for­eign mar­kets for Bhutanese films. The de­mand for lo­cal films is ris­ing in the ma­jor cities of Bhutan and In­dian and Amer­i­can films are mainly be­ing watched in the ru­ral ar­eas. For­eign films are largely not shown in Thim­phu (cap­i­tal city) cine­mas be­cause Bhutanese au­di­ences de­mand their own films.

A good way to progress in film­mak­ing is in­ter­na­tional col­lab­o­ra­tions and co­pro­duc­tions. Bhutanese film­mak­ers have been rec­og­nized in­ter­na­tion­ally and their films are shown at no­table in­ter­na­tional film fes­ti­val venues such as Cannes, Brussels, South Korea and Bu­san.

The Bhutan film in­dus­try has cer­tainly evolved but it faces the same old chal­lenges such as lack of fi­nan­cial re­sources and ab­sence of the­atres out­side ma­jor cities (Thim­phu, Paro Phuentshol­ing and Gele­phu). The in­dus­try has to come up with films that would con­nect lo­cal au­di­ences and also not go in India’s foot­steps.

The four-storey com­plex will help im­prove the tech­ni­cal qual­ity of films Made in Bhutan and will also ef­fi­ciently draw at­ten­tion of over­seas film­mak­ers, in­vestors and film pro­fes­sion­als. This would go a long way in im­prov­ing Bhutanese tourism, lan­guage and cul­ture.

Says Pema Rinzin, a well-known Bhutanese film­maker: "The Bhutanese film in­dus­try is grow­ing, com­mit­ted and the zeal to make films fo­cus­ing on cul­ture and tra­di­tions is our hall­mark.”

A coun­try where film­mak­ing started as a leisure pur­suit mainly on hand­held cam­corders, is now be­ing be­ing ac­knowl­edged and ap­pre­ci­ated world­wide. The film in­dus­try in Bhutan has be­come a lu­cra­tive busi­ness.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.