Ap Bokto, a full-length animation, has leaked through unauthorised sources

Copyright: The producer and director of the first Bhutanese 3D animation film, Ap Bokto, filed a police complaint yesterday afternoon, after the animation film leaked more than a month ago.

Athang Animation Studio produced the film, which took over two years and cost about Nu 4.5 million. About 30-team members were involved in the production.

The popular animation film that features the voice of comedian Phurba Thinley was an instant hit among children when it was released last September.  It was screened until December.

Athang animation studio’s proprietor, Karma Dhendup, who produced and directed the animation, suspects the film could have leaked since the end of January.  He first heard of it on February 6 from a woman in town.

Karma Dhendup said the woman found the copy in a customer’s flash drive on February 6 morning, but he was informed about it only in the evening.  The movie in-charge of the Ap Bokto team was immediately informed, after which they started an investigation.

The team managed to get hold of some copies and verified them with the original and final version of the film.

“It could’ve been the raw or the trailer version but on verification, we found that it was the final 3D copy that was screened in the theatres,” he said. “This meant the source was from our office and we managed to get some evidences.”

Since the movie leaked, Karma Dhendup said, it spread like wildfire, given its popularity. “I’ve heard that its copies have also reached India.”

Following a high demand, the film was to be made available in DVDs later. However, with the movie just screened in Thimphu, the producer had first wanted to screen it in the rest of the country. “We haven’t recovered the investment yet,” Karma Dhendup said.

The film was scheduled for screening in other dzongkhags by the beginning of this academic session. “Unfortunately, even before we could do that, the film was leaked,” Karma Dhendup said.

When the news of the leak came, the film was being screened in Lhuentse. It had to be stopped immediately.

About 40 percent of about Nu 4.5 million has been recovered to date, Karma Dhendup said. “This includes sale of about 4,700 comics in Dzongkha of the 5,000 we printed.”

Determined by the film’s success, Athang Animation Studio had bigger plans.     They were expecting the government to buy the film, considering the tradition and culture embedded in it.

Karma Dhendup said they have also received invitations from European film festivals. “The team was working on inserting English subtitles and voice-overs just before we heard of the leak.”

By Kinga Dema