Bhutan takes spotlight in the 18th Edition of MFF organized by Jio MAMI

Bhutan has been a good market for Indian films for several decades.

Despite limited theaters in the country and a ban on televisions, Hindi films have been appreciated by the Bhutanese audience. Cinema of Bhutanese origin is relatively a very new phenomenon. Earlier, there were hardly any theatre in the country. The few age-worn cinema halls used to showcase Bollywood cinema. 

Things changed a little in the mid '90s. A few Bhutanese filmmakers set out on a fresh cultural journey, in the native languages. Earlier such attempts were heavily influenced by Hindi movies. Directors used to adapt Bollywood flicks in their own lengua materna. However, time brought changes in the content. Several movies made in the new Millennium wrapped around local traditions, which include Buddhist teachings. Bhutan government and several private enterprises support these ventures. Bhutan produces around 30 films every year now.

In fact, Buddhist monk and filmmaker Khyentse Norbu has made a breakthrough in the international cinema. In 2003, his film 'Travellers And Magicians' was the first to be made entirely in Bhutan . His recent number, Hema Hema: Sing Me A Song While I Wait! was premiered at Locarno International Film Festival, this year. It was also screened at Toronto International Film Festival. This film is Bhutan's prime representative at the 18th MFF.

Festival Trailer of Hema Hema

If a film like this is making its place in the international cinema platforms, such efforts need a lot of appreciation, especially when they bring forward a piece of a vaguely known culture.

The film Hema Hema: Sing Me A Song While I Wait! brings forward an unknown part of Buddhist culture  practiced in Bhutan. In this film, several people come together, wearing masks to celebrate anonymity for 15 days. The concept brings forward a lot of liberating feelings for the audiences, not only from Bhutan, but the entire South Asia, which still has a lot of boundaries around individual independence and liberty. The vibrancy of this film is easy to connect with.

While this kind of representation is going to provide recognition to Bhutanese cinema on international platforms, cinema viewing in Bhutan needs a lot of change too. One of Bhutan's top filmmakers, Tshering Wangyel, has said in an interview that filmmaking in his country is quite strenuous due to the lack of movie theaters in the country. After a film is ready, they have to travel all over the country, carrying tents, projectors, screens and tickets to create makeshift theaters to showcase their work.

In the wake of such intermittent progress, Jio MAMI with Star Film Festival, in its latest edition, will play host to a 9-member contingent from Bhutan. A versatile team comprising of important members of Department of Information and Media and members from the Bhutan Film Association will represent ‘The Land of the Thunder Dragon’ at the Festival. The objective of this invitation is to help enhance film industry in Bhutan and to engage with film makers, producers and directors to build-up collaborative arrangement and long-term professional working relationships.

It is significant to note that two months ago, a facebook post attracted many film teachers in India. A film teacher was being sought for a residency program of one year, in Bhutan. Seriously, they want to communicate in the socialized languages of Cinema.

The international appreciation of Bhutanese cinema may also help in building more positive environment around cinema-viewing in the country. Hopefully, this will translate into encouraging the audiences into demanding more movie theatres around the country, so that the filmmakers can showcase their works easily.

Festival Director, Jio MAMI with Star Film Festival, Anupama Chopra said,”Bhutan is one of my favorite places on the planet and it gives me great pleasure to have the Bhutanese delegation at our festival.  It’s an honor for us.  I hope this is the beginning of an enduring cultural exchange.”

The contingent will comprise of:

1. Mr. Dasho Karma W Penjor- The Honorable Secretary of Ministry of Information and             Communications
2. Mr. Thinley Dorji- Librarian, Department of Information and Media
3. Mr. Phub Wangdi- Assistant Information and Media, Department of Information and Media

And members from the Bhutan Film Association:

1.   Mr. Tashi Gyeltshen- Filmmaker
2.   Mr. Thukten Yeshi- Film Writer & Director/ Consultant
3.   Mr. Pema Rinzin- Filmmaker, Sound Designer, Editor, Cinematographer & Archer
4.   Mr. Chencho Dorji- Actor/Producer
5.   Ms. Tsokye Tsomo Karchung- Actor
6.   Ms. Lhaki Dolma- Actor, writer

We hope to see a great interaction build up over the next week between us and the Bhutanese filmmakers. Norbu's Vara : A Blessing astonished both the common film buff and the critic alike from Goa to Kolkata, three years ago. We seek that magic be sustained.

About Author - 

Aditi Pandey was brought up in Bihar and Delhi by multilingual, multicultural parents. She grew up in communes and started reading culture thoroughly as a college student in Delhi. Fluent in several North Indian languages, including different dialects of Hindi, Bangla and Marathi, she is an active subtitle editor for film and TV shows today. She is the key person behind COR (Cinema of Resistance), Mumbai - an activist platform for screening and propagating progressive films across India. Aditi is passionate about Cinema, Culture and Politics. Aditi is one of the reporters covering the 18th Mumbai Film Festival for A Potpourri of Vestiges.

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