Yangyel Lhaden

UK Asian Film Festival’s Associate Director Ashvin Devasundaram, is in Thimphu to establish a partnership between the film industries in Bhutan and London. 

Hearing about an entry from Bhutan, the film Gangnam Girls, for the 24th UK Asian Film Festival in 2022, intrigued Ashvin Devasundaram. He said: “We don’t often hear much about Bhutan, so screening Gangnam Girls was important.”

The film was well-received by the audience and even won the award for Best Debut Film, which highlighted the potential of Bhutanese filmmakers, Ashvin Devasundaram said. “I further engaged in discussions with Nyema Zam from Samuh and Charmi Chheda, the director of Gangnam Girls and realised it was a key time for collaboration.” 

Ashvin Devasundaram said that he admired the talent of Bhutanese filmmakers. “The films like ‘Gangnam Girls’ and ‘Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom’ have clearly showcased the immense talent and capabilities of Bhutanese filmmakers.” 

Ashvin Devasundaram is also a Senior Lecturer at Queen Mary University in London and is also working on a student exchange programme agreement between Royal Thimphu College and Queen Mary University. 

“Both parties will need to make a collective effort, supported by the government, to facilitate collaboration between London and Bhutan,” Ashvin Devasundaram said. “I am fully committed to this endeavour from my side.”

He is exploring various avenues for collaboration, including academic research, faculty and student partnerships, film festivals, and cross-cultural exchanges, which he views as bridges to connect Bhutan and Britain.

Ashvin Devasundaram hosted a Film Symposium with Samuh and other filmmakers where he delivered a talk on the international film landscape on June 17. 

Actor Kelly Dorji shared his personal experience of working in Bollywood, while Bhutanese filmmakers provided insights into the Bhutanese film industry. Officials from the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, and Employment, who oversee the creative industry department, also attended.

Samuh’s Chief Executive Officer, Nyema Zam, said that in the Bhutanese film landscape, there weren’t many forums for discussion. “A film symposium like today is important to create a platform to engage in meaningful conversations about film and encourages a broader perspective of films that extends beyond mere entertainment.”

Nyema Zam said that the level of film literacy was low in Bhutan. “By hosting forums like this, my hope is to cultivate a culture of film appreciation and foster meaningful discussions about the significant role that film plays.”