When the Bhutan government announced in 1999 that TV and Internet were coming to the country, it was the start of a large cultural shift in the country. Happiness is a documentary that takes a look at this shift through the eyes of a nine year old. Having grown up in a small (and gorgeous) mountain village, Peyangki is enrolled in a monastery to become a monk instead of school despite his objections.
The film shows footage of his day to day life and some of his struggles living the tradition way of life versus the newer go to school/then the city goals of the kids around him. Eventually, Peyangki does on a trip to the city and it is then we see the large contrast between the two worlds which currently inhabit Bhutan. the documentary that Thomas Balmès presents is an interesting look at a country that frankly, a lot of us don’t know about.
Bhutan is gorgeous and Happiness is a film that is more then willing to show you sweeping shots of valleys and mountains. The film itself is quite slow paced but perhaps it was done deliberately to reflect the way of life of the villagers. It might also be because a vérité style documentary about a nine year old monk probably does not yield a lot of story lines. My only thought was that the film should have shown more of the Peyangki’s trip to the country capital of Thimphu, but perhaps much like the life at monastery, there wasn’t a whole lot there either. Regardless, Happiness is an interesting look at a world that is pretty much foreign to most of us.
Check out Happiness: TIFF Bell Lightbox 1, Sun, May 4 11:00 AM