Arun Bhattarai and Dorottya Zurbó: Agent of Happiness

Love that film. It’s beautiful shot, it has a modest and yet charismatic Amber as the main protagonist, who – with a colleague – is conducting – on behalf of the authorities – interview sessions to find out whether Bhutan is a happy country with happy inhabitants. For the purpose of finding out whether official policies should be changed. The questions the villagers are answering shift from “how are you sleeping” to “how many cow do you have” and in many cases the films stays with the people interviewed and tell their stories, which are not always pure happiness.

Impressive and touching is the story about the 17 year old girl, whose parents divorced; she now lives with her mother, who drinks too much, and her little sister, who she helps with her homework from school. She loves her mother and helps her as much as possible but contrary to schoolmates, she does not have a boyfriend.

And there is the man who suffers after the death of his wife and tries to achieve information whether he will meet her again in after-life.

And the man who wants to be a woman, she acts and is in her sadness close to her mother; we understand that it is not easy to be a transsexual in Bhutan.

And there is the man who has three wives and gets 10 points on all the questions put to him, whereas one of the wives depicts how terrible he can be, seeking consolation in a fine relationship to the other two wives.

The film’s red thread, however, goes with Amber and his longing for happiness as he wants a wife, and children, but the number one candidate, to whom he has proposed, goes to Australia, where he can not go as he can not get a passport – if I get it right, he is born in Bhutan but Nepalese, therefore? His colleague helps him put together a personal letter to the King asking to get a passport so he can move around. Amber is also a very caring son of his old mother, several scenes are full of poetry. Well, many scenes have this poetic dimension.

Atmosphere and tone is what we want from a documentary. This film delivers both. The cinematography catches beauty, not only the landscapes but also the faces, the homes – and the tone has humor, at the same time as the poverty of not all but many of the portrayed Bhutanese is obvious.

What an enjoyable visit to a small country, we know so little about.

Bhutan, Hungary, 2024, 94 mins.

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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