… unless the producers of the film challenge BICMA’s decision

Film: During the Meet-the-Press session held yesterday, the government’s stand on Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority (BICMA) not allowing Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche’s fourth feature film Hema Hema: Sing Me a Song While I Wait, was questioned.

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said BICMA has already made its ruling. “Is the government responsible? Yes, we follow the developments closely. Should the government do anything in this matter? No, because BICMA’s decision has not been challenged. Should the BICMA’s decision be challenged? It’s up to the film’s producers,” Lyonchoen said.

“If they do challenge, our laws already have a procedure to call for the establishment of a tribunal and also the option to be taken to the courts for justice. There’s nothing that the government may do and in fact there’s nothing that the government should do.”

“There is a process and due process must follow. For those who feel slighted, due process can be followed. If it requires for the government to be drawn into it, I will not shy away. At the moment, we are not required,” Lyonchoen said. “It is a strange situation where there are a lot of debates and opinions on social media yet the government cannot and must not intervene until due process has taken place.”

On the other hand, there has also been a lot of discussion on culture, which is good for the country, Lyonchoen said. “It allows people to think and we should use it as an opportunity to discuss it more. Lets make the discourse constructive. Media should help moderate the discussion constructively.”

On January 10, BICMA issued a letter to the producers of the film stating that the film cannot be screened in the country due to the various religious masks used by the characters in the film, which is not in keeping with our own tradition and culture.

In the last four years, BICMA had reviewed and approved 87 films, of which they have made changes or deleted scenes from 84 films.

However, the production house of the film, Tshong Tshong Ma Productions, did submit a letter on January 19 to BICMA challenging their decision. The letter states that BICMA has not provided valid reasons for barring the film as there are no sections or clauses in the BICM Act that states that a film can be denied certification for screening on the grounds of “not keeping with Bhutanese tradition and culture”.

The letter states that the National Films Review Board has not listed any of the violations, yet the film was not being certified to be screened in the country. Further, the production house pointed out that they did not break any rules and regulations by submitting the film to foreign film festivals without certification from BICMA.

The letter further states that BICMA took 22 working days to finalise the decision, where in the BICMA’s Rules Governing Examination and Certification of Film states that the authority shall inform the applicant of its decision as soon as and in any case no later than seven working days from the date of the examination of the film.

The letter ends that accusing the production house of disrespecting the country’s rules and regulations is a serious allegation.

Thinley Zangmo