Sunday, February 9, 2014

Getting to Know Bhutan through Cinema

Traveling to a foreign and far country is always very exciting, particularly if you are part of the organizers of a very special event, the Emerging-Ethnobiologist Workshop at the 14th Congress of ISE. I was searching about Bhutan on the internet, to get more real, authentic and useful information about this unknown (for myself) and dreamlike country. At this time I discovered an unexpected information, that the world’s first Bhutanese film festival outside of Bhutan was to be held the next week in Budapest in Hungary, in my home city. J So, I went there. The event was organized by the Hungarian Bhutan Friendship Society. Twenty movies were screened at the festival.

In this post, I would like to highlight a few of them. These movies helped me to understand deeper the Bhutanese life that is rooted in tradition, However, this traditional lifestyle is in transition, and affected by global issues similarly to other places  in the world...

The first movie,that I watched was ‘Bhutan: Search for Happiness’  made by European moviemakers, from Slovakia. This movie showed the point of view of foreign tourists about the amazing and sacred mountainous landscapes, the wisdom and peacefulness of the people and about the harmony that exists between people and nature in this beautiful country. After watching this movie, it was very instructive to see other documentary movies made by young Bhutanese filmmakers. Those movies put my mind back from a little too idealized world to a real, but still a beautiful and wholeness life: Tashi and Sakting’ movie is dealing with the topics of education and migration, through a young boy’s everyday life in a rural village amplifying  the question of  staying or leaving his home for educational purposes. The movie ‘Losar’ introduces a day of another young boy’s. This day is a very special day, which called Losar. It is the new year’s day of the Buddhist people. They have festivals and ceremonies on this day, but they still have to do the regular work around the livestock and house as to clean the barn. This moment was, when I understood personally the reality and wholeness of the rural life and I could draw a strong parallel between other countryside communities.

The next movie, ‘An Original Photocopy of Happiness’, was one of the most emotional from all of them.  A 16 years old girl goes looking for her father, who she has never met and whose identity her mother will never reveal. She needs a signature from him, because without this she is not allowed to continue her study.

‘Bhutan: Taking the middle path to happiness’ was a more formal movie, but a very important one. In this movie you could understand what does “the gross happiness index” mean from an official government view and what it means for the young and for the elder Bhutanese people.

The wonderful picture of the country became a bit preposterous and doubtful after seeing ‘86 centimeters’ and ’The Cost of Climate Change’. In both movies you can see how young people are dealing with huge rocks by hands high up in the Himalaya to make a dam to prevent large glacier floods, which is getting regular, due to  the effects of climate change.

The Bhutanese visual media is very young (TV was launched in 1999 only), but you can already realize the good and bad effects of it in the everyday life of Bhutanese people. One of the good one is, that through visual media they can share and document their world in a deeper sense.

Thank you very much for the organizers of the film festival!

This post was written by Anna Varga, one of the Student Representatives for the International Society of Ethnobiology. 

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