Thomas Balmés: Happiness

ZagrebDox places the film in the ”Happy Dox” category. Here is some background on theme and on story from the idfa catalogue synopsis 2013: Bhutan is one of the least developed countries in the world. There is barely any industry, and electricity was not commonplace until very recently. This meant that people led their lives without TV, let alone Internet. But both arrived at last in 1999, following an official announcement by King Jigme Singye Wangchuk. The advent of electricity was revolutionary for the tiny mountainside villages in this Himalayan kingdom. Peyangki is a dreamy and solitary eight-year-old monk who lives in the last village to get hooked up. In anticipation of this big event, Peyangki’s uncle decides to buy a TV set, which will take a three-day journey to Bhutan’s capital of Thimpu. Peyangki will go along on the trip, his first foray into the big city. “Do you expect TV to make you happy?” asks the lama of the last five monks at Peyangki’s monestery. The answer is a resounding “Yes.”…

“Happiness” is beautifully shot, the boy is brilliant and convincing as is his mother, with whom he has many wonderful scenes, it is here that the film lives, whereas the story about the tv, that breaks so the uncle has to go to the city to buy a new one, feels fake and too arranged, and does thus not really work in this scripted documentary, that makes you smile, think of Sergey Dvortsevoy without Balmés having his rough poetic touch, it is much more smooth in style, and the ending of the film with a sequence of faces looking at us viewers/Westeners is far too much in its “moralistic” message: What are we doing to the people, who had a natural and harmonious life far away from “our” world. This is how I read it. What a pity for a film that could live without such finger-pointing… respect the audience, please.

France/Finland, 2013, 80 mins.

http://www.idfa.nl/industry/tags/project.aspx?id=d40497b2-f646-4a70-9a1d-330bbce58e06#sthash.5G0KOVKN.dpuf

http://zagrebdox.net/en/2014/home

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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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