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Bhutan , famously known to initiate the Gross National Happiness index as a measurement of national success , is also one of the world’s most isolated nations. How do the Buddhist kingdom embark on this journey of Happiness and as it continue to modernize and open up to the world, will the 'happiest country in the world' continue to remain contented and happy?
The documentary, The Happiness (R)evolution, is a documentary on Bhutan’s journey in pursuit of Gross National Happiness and the transformation that the country is undergoing as it embark on its modernization process
Bhutan is a tiny and remote kingdom nestling in the Himalayas between India and China. For centuries, the country remained in isolation with the first tourists being allowed in in the 1970s. When it finally opened up and began its planned development, the Buddhist kingdom boldly rejected Gross Domestic Product and adopted Gross National Happiness as its national index. The idea was to initiate a human-centered development that would protect its rich Buddhist culture and pristine natural environment.
The GNH philosophy lies in four basic pillar : Sustainable development, preservation and promotion of cultural values, conservation of the natural environment and establishment of good governance. Since then, it has become a catchword inside the country and a tagline outside the country. Gross National Happiness has even won a place in the development agenda of the United Nations.
But achieving happiness for the entire nation can be easier said than done. After four decades of implementing GNH, are the people of Bhutan really happy? And is GNH ready for the modern world?
In 1999, Bhutan allowed its citizens access to television and internet services - being one of the latest countries to have done that. With that, the journey of modernization began to take strong root in the country.
As the country opens up to the world and embark on its journey of development, albeit a measured one, the pressure of globalization began to surface in this once isolated kingdom.
How do the land-locked country continue to grow its economy to curb rising unemployment without sacrificing its core tenant to preserve its environment? How do the once-isolated kingdom preserve its heritage in the face of international mass media? As the youngest democracy in the world, how do Bhutanese deal with the new-found empowerment on their hands? Can the people of Bhutan continue its pursuit of happiness in the face of globalization?
Through the eyes of various Bhutanese (from a rural farmer to a businessman to a rock musician) we will uncover the transformation that is taking place in the happiest country in the world today.
"I think this documentary is a very timely piece for the world today. As a social documentary, it questions the methodology of modern development." William Lim, Producer
People behind Happiness Revolution
As a testimony to the work produced by the company, we have won and been nominated for several awards including the Asian Television Awards and Mediacorp’s Star Awards.
William Lim, Executive Producer
William has been a media practitioner for more than 15 years. He is the executive producer of XTREME Media Pte Ltd and XTREME Production, a production company that specializes in factual productions.
William is also trained as a 35mm film editor. In 2001, he was awarded the FMS (Film Media Sound) Prize for outstanding performance from the pioneering batch of Ngee Ann Polytechnics’ Advanced Diploma in Film Production (35mm). William has edited, directed and produced numerous high profile video productions, both for the local broadcasters as well as for the international market.
Some of his production credits include :
• AETN > “China’s Extreme Skywalker” : a feature documentary for the Biography Channel (under AETN). This programme won Best Infotainment programme in 2011 Asian Televison Awards.
• National Geographic Channel > “Two Tales of China” : a 6-episode series that features some of the most exciting factories and craftsmenp in China. This project is a co-production between Singapore (XTREME/MDA), China (CICC) and Hong Kong (National Geographic Channel).
• Arts Central > “Moving Gods” : a television drama for Arts Central, Mediacorp. This programme is a stage-to-screen adaptation of an award-winning play of the same name. It was submitted by the station for Best Cinematography in Asia Television Awards. • MICA > “Second Nature” : a 45-mins international exhibition documentary that premiered in the inaugural Singapore Pavilion at the La Biennale di Venezia 9th International Architecture Exhibition.
• CNA > “ParadiseAsia” : a 30-episode high-definition (HD) television documentary series for Channel NewsAsia, Mediacorp. The series takes an in-depth look into the design of some of Asia's best resorts. The series is the all-time best selling programme for the station and it is currently taken up by distributor, Off The Fence (Amsterdam) for worldwide broadcast.
• CNA > “GIFTS” : Meaning ‘Great Ideas For Transforming Societies’, this series looks at some of the most innovative solutions that are making the world a better place today. This series is being distributed by France’s TVF International.
• Design SIngapore Council > “Design Superheros” : From fashion design to interior design to product design, this show looks into some of the most creative minds in the design world today. This series is currently being distributed by London’s Electric Sky.
Known to be sharp and direct in style as a critic, William has been requested to guest lecture and judge in the fields of arts, film and creativity at various educational institutions. He is currently a member of AIPRO (Association of Independent Producers, Singapore) and SAAVA (Southeast Asian Audio-Visual Association) and is actively involved in programs and strategies to create a dynamic and robust media industry in Singapore.
Thukten Yeshi, Writer
Thukten Yeshi is an independent screenwriter, director, and producer based in Bhutan. He had worked as a researcher and filmmaker in Bhutan Broadcasting Service, the national television station of Bhutan, for over six years. He resigned and started his career as an independent filmmaker and consultant in the Bhutanese film/media sector in 2007.
Thukten spearheaded the film sector development in Bhutan in the capacity of the Consultant and the Coordinator of the Task Force formed by the Film Association of Bhutan to develop the film sector in 2011. He also drafted the National Film Policy of Bhutan as the consultant for the Royal Government of Bhutan. Thukten wrote, directed, and produced many documentaries and short films, produced sponsored corporate videos, and written screenplays for several feature films. Alongside these stories, he is also researching and developing a Bhutanese cinema form.
XTREME Media Pte Ltd
XTREME Media Pte Ltd is an award-winning production company that specializes in quality television productions. Setup in 1997 initially as XTREME Production, the company embarked on its filmmaking journey through producing corporate videos and television commercials. It made its foray into television programming in 2000 with an eight-part arts series for Arts Central. Entitled “Building Dreams”, the series talks about the development of Singapore’s built heritage and has received great reception.
Over the years, XTREME has established itself as a strong producer of high quality television programmes and is a major contributor to Singapore’s local productions. The company is a close collaborator to Mediacorp and has produced many of its English and Chinese shows, including for Channel NewsAsia, Channel 5, Channel 8, Channel U and OKTO.
Besides local programming, the company has worked with regional and international partners including AETN All Asia Networks, National Geographic Channel and Germany’s Deutsche Welle. XTREME’s programmes has also been distributed globally through various international distributors including Off The Fence, Electric Sky and TVF International.
+++ Why is this film important ?
I think this documentary is a very timely piece for the world today. As a social documentary, it questions the methodology of modern development.
As developed nations around the world begin to reflect on the price (environmentally, culturally, ethically etc) they have to pay for rapid development , we see with great trepidation as Bhutan embark on their journey to modernize.
What makes Bhutan unique compared to other developing nations is that they seem to approach modernization in a more cautious and careful manner. But perhaps, this is a little too slow and conservative for some of its people. In a country that guards its culture very jealously, how do you modernize and yet retain your tradition at the same time?
The story of the developing Bhutan is also a philosophical story : What is happiness?
As a Buddhist country, one of its main tenets for happiness has been the concept of contentment and the fulfillment that its rich tradition and culture brings. As the country continue to open up to the world, will the concept of happiness be eroded or redefined? How should one look at material progress and the trappings that development bring?
As everyone continue to seek happiness in the modern world, this documentary will serve as an interesting take as to how Bhutan, the ‘happiest country in the world’, deals with it.
+++ Where will this film be shown?
This film is planned to be distributed internationally in various countries including Asia, Europe and America.