Colours, dances, music and appreciation applauds filled the hall at the first Bhutan Film Festival (BFF) of the country held at Gangtok, Sikkim, India on June 23-24. 

The two-day festival held to commemorate the 50 years of Bhutan-India formal relation concluded yesterday.

At the opening day of the event on June 23, the chief guest, KN Rai, the Speaker of the Sikkim Legislative Assembly said Bhutan and Sikkim are friendly neighbours from time immemorial.

“Today India enjoys one of the best relationships with Bhutan,” he said, adding that the friendship continues with Bhutan as the most reliable ally to India.

He said it is heartening to note the 50-years of establishment of Bhutan-India relation, as Bhutan is poised for dawn of new era. “Bhutan is growing steadfast in all spheres of development. And yet it has maintained the tranquility and people’s happiness.”

He said there is so much to learn from Bhutan.

Meanwhile, Bhutanese celebrities and Skimmese local artists performed various traditional and cultural performances at the festival on June 23.

Bhutanese song ‘Gangchen mengi jonglu’, one of the three songs Film Association of Bhutan (FAB) created with a remix touch including a prominent Nepali song “Malai Sikkim Manparcha” of Sikkim origin became a hit at the event.

Sikkimese artists performed colourful dances such as the Bhutia dance, a Lepcha folk dance, and Maruni, a cultural dance.

A Bhutanese singer and actor, Samten Wangchuk, said Sikkimese artists performing on stage showed the colourful culture they have.

“The dances were so beautiful and touched my heart,” he said.

He said as it is the first film festival and celebrating in line with the Golden Jubilee of Bhutan-Inda friendship, Sikkimese film fraternity also should bring their programs in Bhutan in the future. “If such events continue, it would promote cross-cultural activities.”  

Six Bhutanese movies were also screened during the two-day film festival. ‘Terma’- Prophecy was one among the six screened.

At the end of the program, the director of photography of this movie, Pelden Dorji, who is also one of the founding members of FAB, said there should be more such festivals.

“This is like a testing ground for us,” he said, adding that it was important to take Bhutanese films across the borders. “I am hoping to have a similar festival in Ladakh.”

Pelden Dorji said film festivals are a means to market Bhutanese films. “Bhutanese market, otherwise, has reached its limits and dying.”

He said Bhutanese filmmakers should take risks and change the movie-making trend that exists today and make it more Bhutanese.

“It will take time,” he said. “We need to feed audiences with such movies and train them to like them.”

Talking on the 50-years of Bhutan-India celebration, the Consul General of Bhutan in Kolkata, Thinley Wangchuk, who attended the program as the Bhutanese delegate said the special relationship has sustained with the tradition of regular high-level visits and dialogues between the two countries.

“The diplomatic relations with India was established on January 8, 1968, with the appointment of a special Indian officer in Bhutan,” he said.

 He said resident representatives were exchanged on May 17, 1971, and upgraded to the status of an Embassy August 8, 1978. “Mutually beneficial economic links between Bhutan and India have been an important element of bilateral relations.”

He said that given the significance of this friendship, Bhutan is celebrating the Golden Jubilee of the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between the two countries. “It is a year-long event, exceptionally, meaningful for the government and people of the two countries.”

Rajesh Rai | Sikkim