Chhimi Dema  

The documentary “Mountain Man” shows what it takes for a small nation to protect its communities from the impact of climate change.

It brings the prayers and longing of an 11-year old daughter whose father, a glaciologist, is in the snow-clad mountains studying the health of glaciers in Bhutan.

Arun Bhattarai’s “Mountain Man” was screened on November 12 at the world’s largest documentary film festival in Amsterdam, the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA).

IDFA was first held in 1988 in Amsterdam.

The film festival is known for bringing together films, fans, and talented filmmakers in a place to tell extraordinary stories about life.

Arun said that he chose to work on this film because he was inspired by Phuntsho Tshering’s work in the mountains.

Phuntsho Tshering is a glaciologist with the National Centre for Hydrology and Meteorology.

“Often, we don’t talk about people like Phuntsho whose work is on the ground when we talk about climate heroes. Every year he risks his life to monitor the glaciers and the glacial lakes and I wanted to tell this film through his point of view,” he said.

Arun and his team travelled to Gangju La, a benchmark glacier at the headwater of Pho chhu located at an elevation of 4,800 to 5,100 metres above sea level, to film Phuntsho’s work.

Arun was the only professional crew in the team, the others were a guide and helpers. He shot some scenes on his smartphone after the technical failure of equipment at high elevation areas.

The film includes shots from Thorthormi, Raphstreng, Khobula pass, and Gangla Karchung pass.

The film also used shots from Phuntsho’s smartphone to bring out an authentic and powerful story, according to Arun. “This was an intentional decision to empower my main protagonist and let him tell the story from his point of view. I consider this film a collaboration between myself and my main character.”

This is Arun’s second film that was screened at the festival. His first film was The Next Guardian premiered in Amsterdam in 2017.

Arun said that it was a wonderful opportunity to showcase the film at IDFA. “Only the best documentaries from around the world are screened at IDFA. It is also a good chance to get distribution opportunities and a platform to carry the climate change message of the film.”

This is the second time a Bhutanese film was at the film festival.