Film: Two Bhutanese films, Hema Hema: Sing Me A Song While I Wait by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche and Honeygiver Among the Dogs by Dechen Roder will be screened at the 21st Busan International film festival in South Korea from October 6 to October 15.
The Busan film festival is one of the significant annual events in Asia. For this year’s event, 301 films from 69 countries will be screened.
A filmmaker and producer of Hema Hema: Sing Me A Song While I Wait, Pawo Choyning Dorji, said the team is proud of the reception the film has been receiving.
“It’s surreal that a film made by mostly young and amateur Bhutanese crew and cast, shot in remote forests of Bhutan is suddenly being premiered in such prestigious film festivals. It’s a moment that the entire team feels a part of being in something special. It shows how far Bhutanese filmmakers have come,” Pawo Choyning Dorji said.
Pawo Choyning Dorji is currently on his way to premiere the film at the Toronto International film festival, which is another significant global film festival. The film premiered at the 69th Lucarno film festival in Switzerland last month. After the Busan film festival, the film will also be premiered at the 60th London film festival.
Hema Hema is one of the 12 films that are in contention for an award, a significant achievement for a Bhutanese film. “The Bhutanese film industry, in general, is going through a very important phase. It shows that the Bhutanese filmmakers are doing something right and are being recognised on an international level. It’s something that Bhutanese should feel happy and proud about,” Pawo Choyning Dorji said. “It is a special time, Bhutanese filmmakers are free in expressing stories that they want to and this is manifesting in beautiful films.”
The film took two months to complete and was shot in Pemathang and Deothang in Samdrupjongkhar, and also in Thimphu. Pre-production, such as making costumes and masks for 300 people and work on the script took a year before actual shooting started.
“Now Bhutan is creating respectable films and is being noticed on the international stage as well,” Pawo Choyning Dorji said.
Following Busan, the film will be screened in Bhutan.
Dechen Roder’s Honeygiver Among the Dogs, will also be premiered at Busan. The film is about an undercover detective’s investigation to find a missing nun. During the investigation, he befriends the chief suspect – a woman known as a demoness. He slowly starts to realise the woman’s stories of dakinis might be the clues needed to solve the mystery.
The film, which was shot in Bhutan last year, took about 60 days to complete.
Dechen Roder said that it is a huge achievement for the film to be selected for the Busan film festival and that the team behind it is proud and happy.
“It is my first feature film and was not known in the international film circuit until now. So to be on a platform with such well known and established filmmakers, including Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche, is a great honour and blessing,” Dechen Roder said. “To reach an international platform, it signifies that we definitely have the potential to make quality films, and that the world is curious about Bhutanese cinema and we should take advantage of that.”
Dechen Roder said that film festivals are looking for original stories, unique approaches and forms, and basically, good films. She said such festivals are highly competitive, with submissions coming from all over the world so for films from Bhutan to be selected is quite exciting.
Dechen Roder also hopes to premiere her film in Bhutan after Busan.
“It is my biggest hope that Bhutanese audiences will connect and appreciate the film. I hope to release it commercially in Bhutan, although I can already say its not going to be a blockbuster since there are no dance routines or slapstick comedy, but I hope through this film I can contribute something new and fresh to audiences and have some form of success with the film, if not entirely, financial,” Dechen Roder said.
This is not the first time Bhutanese films are premiering on the international stage. Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche’s Travellers and Magicians was premiered at the Toronto and Busan international film festivals. Rinpoche’s film Vara was selected as an opening film at the Busan international film festival three years ago, while Dechen Roder’s short films also premiered at the Berlin film festival.