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Bhutanese film to screen at renowned Berlin film fest

Films: A Bhutanese short film has been selected to be screened at the prestigious Berlin international film festival also known as the Berlinale.

The short film called Lo Sum Choe Sum or Three Year Three Month Retreat is one of 27 films from 18 countries that will screened in the short films category or Berlinale Shorts.

The Berlinale is the largest attended film festival world wide and is considered one of the leading ones, alongside the Cannes, Venice, Toronto, and Sundance film festivals.

While up to 400 films are screened at the Berlinale, only a select few will compete for the festival’s awards called the Golden and Silver Bears, as well as the nomination for best short film at the European Film Awards and the Audi short film award that offers a cash prize of 20,000 Euros. Lo Sum Choe Sum is one of the films that will compete for the awards.

“My first reaction was complete shock and then excitement, I was a little bit overwhelmed,” said the director of the film, Dechen Roder. “It is such a small film we made, and under such modest circumstances that I couldn’t believe it was selected for a festival on this level.”

Lo Sum Choe Sum is about a young girl searching for redemption and clarity under the gaze of society. The young girl is played by actress Dechen Zangmo.

The film took about a month to complete from writing the script to post production.

The cost of making the film was about Nu 20,000 and was mostly borne by the director with contributions from cast and crew, supporters and friends.

“Basically the film could not have been made with this kind of budget without the multilayered support of the cast, crew, and friends,” said Dechen Roder.

Unlike a commercial feature film, short films do not provide financial returns and are limited to a very small group of filmmakers and audience in Bhutan.

On why make short films when there are no financial returns, Dechen Roder said that it is about the pursuit of individual happiness. “For some people, buying a car or an expensive phone or a pair of shoes gives them joy, for others, hiking, going on pilgrimage or a holiday gives them joy,” she said. “I deeply enjoy the process of filmmaking or visual story and then later sharing the output.”

She said that there are other non-financial gains. While she is still looking for funds to travel to Germany for the film festival, she said that if she does manage to make it, she would be able to watch “great” films and be among inspiring filmmakers, and represent Bhutanese films on a global level. “And in a tiny way, contribute to the recognition and growth of our own film industry,” she added.

On the value of short films, Dechen Roder said that the medium offers new ways of seeing and understanding the world, and of communicating diverse experiences and creative expressions. She added that it is important that Bhutanese audiences get opportunities to see more than just mainstream films.

“We’ve gotten into the habit of thinking that things are valuable only when they can be bought and sold but for all of human history, art has been a deeply valuable way for people to express themselves, connect with others and preserve cultural experiences,” she said. “We need to keep that alive.”

Some of her other films include Heart in the Mandala and An Original Photocopy of Happiness.

The 65th annual Berlinale runs from February 5-15.

By Gyalsten K Dorji

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