Bhutanese with English subtitles, 2013, 80 minutes, color, France/Finland
Cinematography Award: World Cinema Documentary
In 1999, King Jigme Wangchuck approved the use of television and Internet throughout the largely undeveloped nation of Bhutan, assuring the masses that rapid development was synonymous with the “gross national happiness” of his country, a term he himself coined. Director Thomas Balmès’s film Happiness begins at the end of this process as Laya, the last remaining village tucked away within the Himalayan kingdom, becomes enmeshed in roads, electricity, and cable television. Through the eyes of an eight-year-old monk impatient with prayer and eager to acquire a TV set, we witness the seeds of this seismic shift sprouting during a three-day journey from the outskirts of Laya to the thriving capital of Thimphu. It is here the young boy discovers cars, toilets, colorful club lights, and countless other elements of modern life for the first time.
Balmès illuminates the seduction of technology—as well as its rapid encroachment—on an ancient way of life with an observant eye, reminding us how complicated and bittersweet the effects of progress can be.
Director: Thomas Balmès
Screenwriter: Thomas Balmès
Producers: Thomas Balmès, Juliette Guigon, Patrick Winocour, Kaarle Aho
Co-producers: ARTE France, BBC, ITVS International, WDR, NHK
Cinematographers: Thomas Balmès, Nina Bernfeld
Editors: Alex Cardon, Ronan Sinquin
Music: British Sea Power