Thursday, January 27, 2011

You can make a box office movie for $35,000

I went to see my first Bhutanese movie. A few years ago, Indian and American movies attracted most people to the country’s few movie theatres. Today, only local films are screened and local producers are queuing for airtime with their completed movies. Making a movie requires the investment of around $35,000.

Thimphu has two cinemas that screen films once in each weekday and twice in weekends in local language, Dzongkha. Popular movies tend to last longer than 2.5 hours with lots of music and a 15-minute popcorn and bio break in the middle. Art movies, like in other countries, often deal with issues like drug abuse, gender inequalities, environment or unemployment.
This time I saw a pop movie that was shot in London and Bhutan with two young actors in the story who return to Bhutan from a long stay in London under the influence of Western culture to discover the traditional Bhutanese life in the countryside. It was not the best ever, but great fun for me.
Based on this movie and what I read about mainstream Bhutanese movies, here are a few general rules for them:
1.   There is always a love story in the film.
2.   A moment of happiness or sadness is immediately followed by a song and dance sequence. These songs are shot either at mountain tops, river banks or  tea gardens and as the music plays on, at some moment, the actor and actress running towards each other in slow motion.
3.   If the story is set in rural Bhutan, there is a ‘night hunting” scene. Don’t you know what it is? I will tell you later, but it is something between men and women …
4.   There must be a dwarf in the film whether it is necessary or not.

5.   In every film, there is Phurba Thinlay as the funny man. He is Bhutan’s most popular comedian. He’s really funny.

The nation's funny man

As I said: Thimphu is small. One of the actresses in the film, Kezang D Wangmo, happened to be my local colleague’s wife and I was invited to their home after the show. I was served excellent chili food, hot water which is very common here, and a bit of local spirit: ara.

The day after, I just entered a DVD rental place (50 Ngultrum for a DVD per day, $1.25) and I bumped into one of the leading characters of last night. I couldn’t resist to contributing to the emerging celebrity culture and asked him for a picture.

Movie stars

Thimphu's two cinemas. I went to the new one.


  1. Túlzásba viszed Zoli, szerintem azt azért nem várják el, hogy beülj egy helyi filmre :)

  2. hey Zoli, while you're there, maybe there will be an opportunity for you to act? I hear Westerners are often asked to take part in movies as they are obviously more "like" true westerners. You may have to learn Dzongkha first, though:)
    Love reading your posts! Take care, Emily