November 17, 2014


Thomas Balmès


About the Documentary

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.

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.

The Filmmakers

Thomas Balmès

Thomas Balmès is an independent documentary director and producer. His films use contrast to reveal our society from completely new and different angles, including: the Bosnia war seen from the side of Masai warriors (Bosnia Hotel); the mad cow crisis as seen from the Indian perspective (Maharajah Burger); a Papuan tribe being converted to Christianity (The Gospel According to the Papuans); and childhood seen from all around the planet (Babies).

Full Credits

Learn more about the documentary

Join the Discussion

Talk about whether modern amenities are worth the trade-off if we lose some of the less frenetic aspects of culture. Does technology actually make us happier than those who lack it? Could the USA have a “happiness quotient,” too?