Film: Against the general understanding that Department of Culture (DoC) was responsible for not certifying the movie Hema Hema Sing Me a Song: While I wait, culture officials told Kuensel that the department has made no comments on the use of masks.

DoC was asked by the Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority (BICMA) to review the movie before it took a decision.

Culture officials said that the issue on the use of masks was not the reason but failure to follow the due process of law.

Culture officials said that the movie makers should have sought prior approval from the department as mentioned in the approval letter of BICMA.

Chief Cultural Property officer, Phendey L Wangchuk said: “The BICMA letter clearly says that they should have sought clearance from relevant agencies, which for the use of masks, they have to seek the clearance from the Department of Culture.”

He added: “If approached the department would review the proposal and then give a decision.”

Culture director general Karma Weezir said: “With Hema Hema, the producers have not followed the system in place.”

“We never got the opportunity to review the use of masks as they didn’t come to us to get clearance,” Phendey L Wangchuk said.

He said the movie producers should seek BICMA’s approval even to advertise the movie on social media. Tshong Tshongma Productions did not do that, he added.

He said DoC never said that the use of masks are inappropriate. “It’s the producer’s assumption,” he said.

The director general said that the producers have overlooked the requirement and they have taken the BICMA directives for granted.

The production house of the film, Tshong Tshong Ma Productions challenged the decision on January 19. 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”.

DoC officials said that they did not comment on the masks as the producer of the movie did not seek the department’s clearance before making the film.

“We’ve never said that use of masks in the movie is inappropriate,” culture director general Karma Weezir said.

On January 10, BICMA informed the producers of the film Hema Hema: Sing Me a Song While I Wait that the film cannot be screened in the country.

BICMA said that it can’t be screened due to the various religious masks used by the characters in the film, which is not in keeping with the country’s tradition and culture.

“Culture is everyone’s business to preserve and promote,” he said. He added that it is the soul of the nation and identity of the Bhutanese, the bedrock of Bhutan’s sovereignty and independence.

Tashi Dema and Tshering Palden