Friday, May 02, 2014


Wednesday I was at the SF International Film Festival for a screening of Happiness, a new film by Thomas Balmès, shot in Bhutan. Happiness is listed as a documentary, though to me it looked like a slow-moving narrative film. We see life in the isolated mountain village of Laya through the eyes of an 8-year-old boy. His family are poor yak herders, & there is really no place for him. His mother puts him in a local monastery, but it is a useless institution. Almost the only thing the villagers talk about is the arrival of electricity & TV, which we see happening in the background.

The movie is full of beautiful panoramic shots of stark mountain scenery, though the villagers themselves seem indifferent to the landscape. The film also records the women's distinctive clothing & conical hats, as well as the mother's daily chores of spinning yarn & weaving. We get a glimpse of children standing in neat rows at a school assembly, & there is a visit to the city to buy a television. For some reason the only thing on Bhutanese TV is the WWE.

I saw Happiness at a midday screening with a patient & attentive audience. The largely female crowd reminded me of a weekday matinee at the Symphony.

§ Happiness
Director: Thomas Balmès
France, Finland, 2013, 80 mins.

§ The 57th Annual San Francisco International Film Festival
April 27, 2014, 12:15 p.m. Sundance Kabuki Cinema
April 30, 2014, 1:00 p.m. Sundance Kabuki Cinema
May 2, 2014, 6:30 p.m. BAM/PFA

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