Bhutan: Change comes to the Himalayan “Happy Kingdom” | DW Documentary

When, in my village, after the war of ’14, electricity was introduced, it was a unanimous murmur from the peasants. “It’s the devil, it’s the devil,” we could hear everywhere. When it was finally installed in the churches (there were three of them!), it was a generalized dismay. “It’s the Antichrist, it’s the end of time. “
I must admit that those simple people, cut off from the world, had seen correctly, that is to say far. At the time, the misdeeds of technical progress were not obvious, and they had the merit of being alarmed by instinct.
But what is the use of rehashing such banalities?

CIORAN, Cahiers : 1957-1972

Bhutan’s other name is “The Happy Kingdom.” The small Himalayan country has one foot in the distant past and the other in the digital age. It’s quite a balancing act for Bhutan’s citizens.

No other country has recently undergone more radical change than Bhutan. The millennium brought television, the internet and democratization to the last Himalayan kingdom almost overnight. The capital Thimphu has become one of South Asia’s fastest growing cities. At the same time, just a few kilometers to the north, 20 thousand nomads still live from herding yak on the high plains of the Himalayas. This documentary tells of the challenges these people face.

We meet young Chewang , who often has to leave his family for months and trek to heights above five thousand meters in search of the caterpillar fungus, a fabled medicinal mushroom. We also follows the journey of five-year-old Doryi, who is separated from his poverty-stricken family when they send him to a monastery. Meanwhile, the committed organic farmer Choki is trying to bring the advantages of modern life to her village. And 73-year-old bowman Ap Chimi is finding the modern world quite a challenge, so he’s decided to compete in his last archery tournament to show youngsters in the village that he can still hit the bull’s eye as easily as they do.

This documentary takes viewers on a trip through a time that mirrors Western development in the last century. The loss of a communal life in harmony with nature is juxtaposed against the gains made through globalization. Director Irja von Bernstorff, who has made her home in the Happy Kingdom, gives us a unique peek behind the country’s tourist façade to reveal what makes the wondrous world of Bhutan so special.


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