Gift of the Dragon King
* a documentary-in-progress filmed on location in Bhutan
What happens when the king of an ancient culture -- who has controlled the rate of modernization in his country -- decides to peacefully hand over the reins of power to his people?
Gift of the Dragon King challenges Western culture’s definition of prosperity. In the Himalayan country of Bhutan, an ancient culture is undergoing a remarkable social and political transformation. One of the most remote and isolated cultures in the world, Bhutan has eschewed Western values, declaring that happiness – measured by its “Gross National Happiness” index - is a critical measure for the national’s success.
In 1999, Bhutan's 4th Dragon King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, lifted a ban on television and the Internet, and in 2008 he voluntarily gave up power -- transforming Bhutan from a monarchy to a democracy, ending more than a century of absolute rule.
In just one generation, the Bhutanese people have moved from relative isolation to a 21st century, digitally connected world. Our film follows Bhutanese citizens as they are exposed to Western values and adapt to life in a democracy, exploring the existential search for happiness in an increasingly materialistic world.
What can our society learn from this ancient Buddhist culture’s introduction to new technologies, consumerism, and the growing demand for material possessions? Gift of the Dragon King captures these changes and follows the surprising twists and turns, illuminating and reflecting our own Western social values and priorities. What happened to “Gross National Happiness” in Bhutan? Is it time for us to reassess our definition of happiness and prosperity?
Our main characters include a Buddhist monk, a television reporter, a farmer, two students, the first psychiatrist in Bhutan and the former tutor to the 4th King – a U.K. schoolmaster, one of the first westerners to live in Bhutan in the 1970s, now the first Honorary Consul of the United Kingdom in Bhutan.
STATUS: We filmed on location in Bhutan, first for nearly four months 2007 and then for three weeks in 2008 to witness our subjects voting in the first democratic election. Our long stay combined with unprecedented access to schools, hospitals and monasteries enabled us to capture incredible scenes of everyday life in Bhutan.
Our goal is to return to Bhutan and complete this once-in-a-lifetime story by discovering how life has changed for our subjects … the birth of children, divorce, students entering the job force, and a former monk who is now an IT specialist in the U.S. Funded to date by private donations, our compilation of compelling HD footage has been logged by the award-winning editor Sabine Krayenbuhl. We are seeking funding for the final location shoot in Bhutan and for post-production to complete Gift of the Dragon King. Please contact us to join our team and support this fascinating and timely film!