Nestled at the eastern end of the Himalayas, the tiny nation of Bhutan is famous for being the one place committed to “Gross National Happiness,” with an economy serving a culture based on Buddhist spiritual values.
Over a decade after the King of Bhutan ushered in a new modern era by approving the use of television and the internet — while expressing concerns about whether they will bring more harm than good — the remote mountainside village of Laya is still without electricity. Here Peyangki, a dreamy and solitary nine-year old in training to be a monk, yearns for the modern world to come to him in the form of a flickering television screen. MORE
Between studying and prayer, he watches as his world is encroached upon by electrical cables and roads. When he is taken to Thimphu, Bhutan’s largest city, by his uncle, Peyangki gets a glimpse of consumerism as they search for the perfect TV set to bring back to the village.
In Happiness, Thomas Balmès captures the innocent beauty in the faces of his subjects and through the gorgeous shots of the landscape he illuminates a complicated time when a way of life that has been relatively unchanged for hundreds of years meets the seduction of technology.
Thomas Balmès, Director
Thomas Balmès has been working as an independent director and producer of non-fiction films, specializing in international co-productions, since 1992. His first film, Bosnia Hotel, the story of U.N. Kenyan peacekeepers in Bosnia, was followed by Maharajah Burger: Mad Cows, Holy Cows, about the mad cow crisis as seen from the Indian perspective.The Gospel According to the Papuans (2000), about the conversion to Christianity of a Papuan Chief, was honored with the Silver Spire Award at the San Francisco International Film Festival. He directed a sequel in Papua the following year, Waiting for Jesus.
His film A Decent Factory screened at more than 50 film festivals, won a Europa Award, and was released theatrically in the U.S. in 2005. Damages, a.k.a. How Much Is Your Life Worth?, was filmed at a Connecticut law firm specializing in personal injury cases. Balmès’ film Babies, a look at one year in the life of four babies from around the world, from Mongolia to Namibia to San Francisco to Tokyo, was distributed by Studio Canal and Focus Features in 2010. LESS