Jigmi Wangdi

Arun Bhattarai, a well-known Bhutanese filmmaker, is poised to debut his latest creation, “Agent of Happiness”, at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah, USA.

This marks a significant milestone as it is the first time an independent Bhutanese film has earned a spot at the prestigious festival.

The genesis of Arun’s film dates back to a personal experience in 2016. While working on his previous project, Arun encountered two temporary happiness surveyors in Bumthang, working for the erstwhile Centre for Happiness. Engaging in the Gross National Happiness survey with them prompted Arun to reflect deeply on his own happiness. This encounter became the catalyst for his latest endeavour.

Arun expressed his motivation behind the film, stating, “I wanted to delve beyond the numerical aspects and step into the lives of diverse individuals through the lens of a happiness surveyor.”

As a filmmaker, he aspired to explore the dreams, desires, and emotions of Bhutanese people from various walks of life, prompting viewers to question the essence of true happiness.

And so, the title, “Agent of Happiness”, is chosen deliberately.

Arun said that the term ‘Agent’ could be interpreted as a reason or a medium of causality. The film employs a mosaic-like narrative to uncover the sources of happiness for different individuals across Bhutan, with the central character, Amber, ironically discovering others’ happiness while grappling with his own discontent.

Arun takes viewers on a journey through different parts of Bhutan, including Bumthang, Phobjikha, Punakha, and Thimphu. Describing it as a hybrid film, he combines documentary elements with fictional components, providing a unique perspective on the happiness of people living on the peripheries of Bhutanese society.

The narrative highlights the struggles of these individuals for happiness, emphasising the role of caring for others, such as mothers, sisters, partners, and the community, as a source of hope and resilience.

Arun sees Bhutanese films as a medium to showcase values that make Bhutan special to the world, emphasising genuine care, community, and compassion. He believes these values are crucial in the present global context.

Reflecting on the film’s selection for the Sundance Film Festival, Arun expresses immense pride, acknowledging the festival’s prestige with over 4,000 entries annually. He envisions the film travelling to various festivals and enjoying theatrical releases worldwide.

Before “Agent of Happiness”, Arun’s notable projects include films such as “The Next Guardian”, which premiered at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, and “Mountain Man”, a short documentary which was awarded the grand jury prize at DOC NYC, making it eligible for the Oscars in 2025.

“Agent of Happiness” is scheduled to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January of the coming year.