Main story: With the Bhutanese film industry moving rapidly towards commercial productions, a small group of filmmakers have been experimenting different and thought-provoking films.
This group comprises of independent filmmakers, mainstream filmmakers, scriptwriters, animators, artists and college students, who make short films, documentaries, short animations, which usually draw critics rather than the theatre-going public.
They showcased their works, which had no dance routines or slapstick comedy, during the Beskop Tshechu film festival last Wednesday.
The festival, a non-profit event, was first launched in the celebration of the historic Royal Wedding in 2011. It began on September 28 and went on for the next five days.
The festival was aimed at bringing together filmmakers to showcase their creativity and to encourage a new viewing culture and to promote appreciation for different films.
The only short film (under 20 minutes) and documentary festival in the country screened 32 animation, fiction and documentary films from Bhutan, India, Japan, Nepal and Burma for free in four different places in Thimphu.
From the 17 animation, fiction and documentary films from Bhutan, 14 were shortlisted.
Chand Bhattarai for his animation titled ‘Haste Slowly’ bagged the first prize. This was his second time winning the title at Beskop Tshechu. He bagged the first prize in animation category in 2013.
Chand Bhattarai has been working as a professional animator for over ten years. Today, he owns an animation studio called Awake-can with his friend Nima Dorji Tamang. The duo, along with three other animators, invested their free time for three months to come up with a short animation movie for the festival.
“Beskop Tshechu is a good platform to encourage aspiring and young, as well as, seasoned filmmakers to showcase their creative projects to the Bhutanese audience. Although animation industry in Bhutan is progressing slowly, having such festival is a good indication for its growth not only in animation but other genre of filmmaking as well,” Chand Bhattarai said.
Even Bhutanese audience are now appreciating this art of filmmaking through such platforms, Chand Bhattarai said. “We are able to create a market for animation through such screenings.”
The festival not only provides a platform for the filmmakers and animators to showcase their creativity, but it also provides a training ground for those that aspire to make feature films.
After venturing into the business of creating various short animations commercially, Chand Bhattarai and other professional animators released the first ever-2D animation movie titled Drukten, The Dragon’s Treasure in August, this year.
“Animation industry in Bhutan is beginning but slowly and platforms such as Beskop Tshechu is important for the growth of our creative industry,” Chand Bhattarai said.
Along with him, Kelzang Dorjee’s A Song of Silence took the first prize for fiction category and Sonam Yangzom’s The Curse took for the documentary category.
Kelzang Dorjee’s film shows the paradox of living in a digital era portrayed by a deaf and mute girl who only wishes to hear and talk like others. When the protagonist is granted the wish for a brief moment, she gets disappointed with the noise around and realises how other people don’t appreciate the beautiful sounds of nature.
This is the second time Kelzang Dorjee has been participating in the festival. Kelzang Dorjee gives credit to the festival for propelling him into the film industry.
It took around five months for Kelzang Dorjee to complete the short fiction film.
Since such films are independently made, there is no burden or obligation to sell the films. It gives filmmakers more room to experiment and take risks. Thus, such films are more personal, more expressive and, of course, closer to the filmmakers’ heart.
“We work on such films when we have free time or when we are not working on any project,” Kelzang Dorjee said. “What we usually just post on social media so that our friends and family can see it, now we are able to screen it at Beskop Tshechu. So such platforms are important for young budding filmmakers.”
According to the filmmakers like Chand Bhattarai and Kelzang Dorjee, the beauty of short films is that nobody was paid for their service and they can showcase their highest form of creative talents.
Such festivals are not only important to showcase local talents but also to learn through foreign films that are being screened at the festival, Kelzang Dorjee said. “With such festivals, the artistic side of Bhutanese film industry will only grow.”
Beskop Tshechu 2016 was dedicated to the Royal Birth of His Royal Highness Gyalsey Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck, said the organisers. “As 2016 has been a special and blessed year with the Royal Birth, Beskop Tshechu 2016 is humbly dedicated to the Royal Birth.”
Beskop Tshechu was organised by a group of filmmakers and artists to advance creative filmmaking in the country for filmmakers and audiences.
The festival was sponsored by SDC-Bhutan and the main award sponsor was the Royal Office for Media.
During the festival, there were also seminars and workshops led by visiting foreign film professionals who attended the Beskop Tshechu. There were live music performances from local bands, performing only original tracks as Beskop Tshechu strives to promote original Bhutanese voices, art, and creativity.