The first Bhutan Film Festival (BFF) opened today at Gangtok in Sikkim, India. The festival is held to commemorate 50 years of Bhutan-India diplomatic relations.

It concludes tomorrow.

A team from the Film Association of Bhutan (FAB) led by its president and a performing group comprising of more than 40 artists from the film industry are in Gangtok. Traditional dances and songs would be performed by artists from both Bhutan and Sikkim. 

Six Bhutanese movies would also be screened at the two-day event.

The festival is jointly organised by the department of information and media (DoIM) and FAB. The Speaker of the Sikkim Legislative Assembly, KN Rai is the chief guest at the event. Several other Sikkim dignitaries are also attending the event. 

The Consul General of Bhutan in Kolkata, Thinley Wangchuk and the director of DoIM, Rinchen Dorji is attending the event as Bhutanese delegates. 

FAB president Karma Tshering said it is an important event. “It is also historic for the film makers,” he said, explaining it is the first film festival.

Being the closest neighbour in proximity, Karma Tshering said is the reason Sikkim was chosen for the grand event. It is also the cultural and traditional similarities Bhutan and Sikkim share that the place was chosen, he added.

“People in Sikkim love watching Bhutanese movies,” he said, BBS and BBS 2 channels are also widely watched in Sikkim. “Many Sikkimese know our artists.”

FAB president also said the primary reason to hold the event is to take films beyond the borders, as Bhutan’s market is small. Given the natural setting, unique ancestry folklores (for storytelling), Bhutanese film industry has potential to go international and such event is one such step, he added.

Bhutanese team yesterday, marched to the event hall for a rehearsal on foot wearing gho and kira. 

DoIM director Rinchen Dorji said the event is fully funded by the Government of Bhutan. “This is one of the many events scheduled for celebrating 50-years of Bhutan-India relations,” he said.

The primary objective, Rinchen Dorji said is to strengthen the existing relation between Bhutan and India.

“It is to provide platform for people to meet, discuss, and engage,” he said, adding the event would also explore market for Bhutanese films.

He said the event is also to promote Bhutan as a film location through movies. 

Bhutanese actor Jigme Wangchuk (aka Ring) said minimal viewership is still a challenge for Bhutanese films at home. “Bhutan alone is not possible as a market,” he said.

Pema Deki, a prominent singer said she is proud to be performing at the event and representing Bhutan.

Meanwhile, another festival would be organised later this year in September in Delhi. “We are trying our best to market our movies,” FAB president Karma Tshering said.

Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh, Guwahati, Assam, Ladakh, and Kathmandu are some places to market the movies, he said.

Rajesh Rai | Sikkim