Chhimi Dema 

Iron Female Ox Year-Film industry: In the year 2021, the Bhutanese film industry experienced an evolution with the start of two over-the-top platforms (OTTP), Samuh and Songyala.

Since the pandemic in 2020, film theatres have been closed and the industry suffered losses leaving many unemployed.

Film producers estimated, at the beginning of the year, that the industry suffered a loss of Nu 90 million with the new film releases postponed, film shootings halted, and theatres closed.

With the start of OTTP in the year, the industry let a sigh of relief. The rise of OTTP was the new normal in the world of entertainment.

An OTTP service is offered directly to viewers via the internet as opposed to the traditional means of a cable or satellite provider. Examples of OTTP include Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and HBO Now. Today, the platforms are accessed by people from more than 60 countries.

Another change that augmented the rise of OTTP was the signing of a memorandum between the National Film Commission Secretariat and OTTP for the self-regulation of digital content. However, the OTTPs faced copyright violation­s that they expected from the start.

In less than a month after Samuh went online, the company saw the first case of its copyright infringement. Three copyright violators together had to pay a total of Nu 0.59 million (M) to Samuh for damages, the prejudices suffered and expenses caused by the infringement, including legal costs.

The year 2021 was also marked with the greater popularity of Bhutanese film in international markets.

The one-minute film “Snow Lion and The Glaciologist” won the Best Documentary Award at the International Mobile Film Festival in Paris. Director Arun Bhattarai portrays a glaciologist, Phuntsho Tshering, with the National Centre for Hydrology and Meteorology who goes on foot to inspect the glaciers every year, and what it takes for a small country like Bhutan to protect its community against climate change.

A short film, “Why is the sky dark at night?”, was selected in the Wide Angle: Asian Short Film Competition segment at the 26th Busan International Film Festival, South Korea.

The film’s director Kelzang Dorjee said that “Why is the sky dark at night?” uses expositions like the superficial side of living in a city, the sad reality of arts and artists alike, and a satirical take on being born into a religion-dominated culture.

The year 2021 was a promising year for the Bhutanese film industry. What more adds to the promises of the coming year is the news of a Bhutanese film, Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom, making it into the 2021 Oscars nomination. Whether it will go on to win the Oscars will be seen in the Water Tiger Year.