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  • BY Thomas Balmès | IN Youth & Family
    Premiered November 17, 2014

About the Film

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.

The Filmmaker

Thomas Balmès, Director

Headshot of Happiness filmmaker Thomas Balmès.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

Film Credits

A Film by
Thomas Balmès

Directed and Produced by
Thomas Balmès

Director of Photography
Nina Bernfeld

Edited by
Alex Cardon
Ronan Sinquin

Sound and Mix
Sukanta Majumdar
Rajender Prasad
Peter Nordström
Eric Rey

Color Grading
Marko Terävä
Jukka Kujala
Julien Houillon

Mark Bryant

Line Producers
Jill Coulon
Dan Weingrod

Production Assistant
Loeiza Recourt

Pierre Houri
Christine Renaud
Marie-Claude Cazin

Production Intern
Hadrien Nicoloso

Bhutan Production
Rinzin Wangchuk
Jigme Yosel
Pema Choden
Deki Choden Dorji
Chambula Choden Dorji
Tshering Dorji

Bhutan Consultant
Françoise Pommaret

Alicia Harrison
Cécile Mille

Kinley Om
Ap Kinley Dorji
Aum Thinley Dolma
Sangay Thinley
Chencho Thinley
Namgay Dorji
The People of Laya

Archival Footage
Bhutan Broadcasting Service Corporation

All Songs Written, Performed and Recorded by
Abigail Fry
Martin Noble
Jan Scott Wilkinson
Neil Hamilton Wilkinson,
Copyright BSP Music Ltd.
All songs published by Westbury Music Ltd.

Special Thanks
Eric Boisteau
Pierre Carrasco
Marine de Beaupuy
Vincent Dumesnil
Catherine Gouze
Christilla Huillard-Kann
Thomas Lavergne
Laya Monastery
Laya School
Fred Lombardo

Executive Producers Quark Productions
Patrick Winocour
Juliette Guigon

Executive Producer Making Movies
Kaarle Aho

Executive Producers ARTE France
Martine Saada
Anne Charbonnel

Executive Producers BBC
Nick Fraser
Kate Townsend-Vision

Executive Producer WDR
Jutta Krug

Executive Producers NHK
Ken-ichi Imamura
Tomoko Okutsu

Executive Producer ITVS
Sally Jo Fifer

Funding provided by
MEDIA Programme of the European Union
La Région Ile-de-France
Centre national du cinéma et de l'image animée
Finnish Film Foundation
PROCIREP - Société des Producteurs ANGOA
Buddhist Broadcasting Foundation

Happiness is a co-production of TBC Productions, Quark Productions, Making Movies, ARTE France, BBC, WDR, NHK, and ITVS International.

This program was produced by TBC Productions, Quark Productions, and Making Movies who are solely responsible for its content.

© 2013 TBC Productions, Quark Productions, Making Movies, ARTE France.
All Rights Reserved.

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?
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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?