During my time at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival I had the privilege of watching a thought provoking film called Happiness. This documentary follows the life of a family in one of the mountain village within Bhutan. Now a village is made up of a small group of people that live across a couple of the mountain peaks. So the filming took place on these mountain landscapes of Bhutan.
As you could imagine the cinematography of this film was amazing and it included some of the most breathtaking views from these villages among the mountain peaks. For this very reason Happiness won an award for its cinematography. What made this movie stand out is that Bhutan was one of the remaining countries that did not allow electricity to infiltrate its country.
The documentary starts with the king sharing the news that he is going to bring electricity to the whole country. This brought excitement to all of the people especially because they will soon have the ability to watch television. The director follows one family in their struggle for life.
The main character is a kid who is told by his mom that she is sending him to become a Buddhist priest. From the time his dad died, his mom has struggled trying to care of all of the children. Having no money to send him to school, she decides that this is the best chance for him to have a good life. While watching this conversation unfold between the mom and her son, you can see the openness they have and realness in conversation around the fire within the home.
Before electricity comes to all of these houses in the mountains, the people work hard to live good lives and search for happiness. The anticipation of electricity being a part of their lives gives them the hope that this will make them happy. That this is what life is all about. The last few shots of the film are of these people watching television for the first time. There were no real conversations being had. Only silent blank stares into the television. This is a huge contrast to the real conversation that the mom and son had not too much earlier.
This brings up the question in my mind what brings happiness? What is life all about? The people of Bhutan have one of the most beautiful landscapes to look at. The mountain views were amazing. But instead of focusing on that they go after watching television. We lose the relationships we have with family members. We don’t talk anymore.
When in our inner being we long for more, we long for deep relationships, deep connections. There is something unique about nature. Something that nothing else in the world that we create can compete with. It is like nature has a divine connecting point to it. It is as if we were created to experience it and in some way, are a part of it. Have we lost our connection to it and in need of return?