Singaporean director crowdfunds for documentary on uncovering Bhutan's 'secret to happiness'

Singaporean director Loretta Chen is looking to raise US$25,000 for a film project on Bhutan.

Singaporean director crowdfunds for documentary on uncovering Bhutan's 'secret to happiness' (Source: http://www.asiaone.com/singapore)

 SINGAPORE - Much has been said about Bhutan and its Gross National Happiness (GNH) index - a philosophy of measuring prosperity and well-being of its citizens over gross domestic product.

The Himalayan kingdom has been labelled as the 'happiest place on Earth' and that simple tagline has enticed travellers all over the world to visit Bhutan - mostly to seek that same happiness the country and her people are known for.

But what is the secret behind Bhutan's success and are her people truly happy? It seems like Singaporean director Dr Loretta Chen might have the answers to that. 

Chen, who is also an entrepreneur and a professor based in Hawaii, is currently working on a travelogue that seeks to uncover the secrets of Bhutan's GNH and how it balances modernity in the wake of evolving socio-economic change.

Together with conservation and wildlife photographer Brian Doyle as the documentary's director of photography, the two aim to capture the innate DNA, culture and soul of the Bhutanese people in two half-hour episodes.

According to Chen, the documentary is scheduled to be broadcast on an international channel in March 2019. Filming is slated to begin in December. 

Although the documentary is supported by the Tourism Council of Bhutan and the State Trading Corporation of Bhutan, a remaining US$25,000 (S$32,860) is still needed before filming commences.

"The bulk of the money raised came from friends and supporters who knew about my philantrophic work," said Chen, who helped raised funds in 2014 to rebuild a 17th century monastery and monastic school for orphan monks in Paro.

The 41-year-old has also forked out her own savings in order to produce the documentary, which she believes is a way of paying it forward to the country and the Bhutanese people, whom she said has "deeply moved" her.

IN LOVE WITH BHUTAN

Chen's first foray into Bhutan in 2012 came in the form of work. Her resume was circulated and handpicked by the then chairman of government-linked investment arm Druk Holdings and Investments. 

She initially entered the country to conduct a series of training. Before she knew it, one thing led to another and over a period of four years, Chen worked as a consultant and corporate trainer with various government agencies, including Bhutan Telecoms.

 

 

Chen said her love for Bhutan has lasted till today.

"I don't think I could ever leave Bhutan, as I have such close ties with the kingdom and her people. My serendipitous encounter with Bhutan is once again testimony to the fact that once you open your heart to love, light and positivity, doors open," said Chen.

Chen told AsiaOne that the film project is her "ode and love song to the kingdom". It is also a form of thank you to the country and what "her people have done for me".

"The documentary is part memoir, part travel documentary and part reality show - but 100 per cent heart," she explained.

The film project was first conceptualised in 2016 for World Happiness Day. However, Chen ripped both her knees surfing in August 2015 and the project was put on hold. The soon-to-be director now plans to film in Bhutan over a two-month period.

SECRETS TO HAPPINESS?

But does Chen truly believe that she has uncovered the secrets to happiness in Bhutan? 

"Yes, I do think the Bhutanese are happy or at least, they are content. In the Buddhist tradition, which believes in the concept of karma, wherever we are in this life is because of our previous life, so there is an acceptance of what this life metes out.

"And it is this sense of contentment that leads to happiness which may be misconstrued in the Western sense," said Chen.

She also attributes the Bhutanese sense of happiness to the number of young graduates who return to Bhutan, even though they have had the opportunity to be educated overseas. 

"Her (Bhutan's) citizens will almost always return home for that is where their hearts are. Now if that is not a metric or marker of contentment, I do not know what else is."

For Chen, returning to the Land of the Thunder Dragon for this TV documentary is perhaps a homecoming of sorts for her as well.

 

By Karen Lim (This article first appeared in AsiaOne)


Related Posts

Project Kadinchey Helped Raised Funds for a School in Bhutan

The travellers experienced first-hand the harsh conditions that the primary school students had to put up with daily....

Nov 21, 2017 08:13

Emphasis on Gross National Happiness at the Singapore Summit 2017

As one of the esteemed speakers invited, Prime Minister H.E. Dasho Tshering Tobgay of Bhutan gave an enlightening...

Oct 08, 2017 12:31

Singaporean Woman Helps a Leprosy Couple

A Singaporean woman helped renovate their one storied dwelling and provided the family with mattresses and rations to...

Oct 22, 2017 10:12

Applying the Concept of GNH on Social Enterprises

The essence of a social entrepreneur is what they can do and how they can balance the social and the commercial aspects...

Nov 14, 2017 07:47

JICA signs agreements with GNHC and REC

Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC), Royal Education Council (REC), and Japan International Cooperation Agency...

Aug 18, 2017 10:18

Gross National Happiness of Business Assessment Tool Proposed

The proposed GNH tool is expected to systematically assess a business establishment’s effort to integrate GNH values...

Nov 08, 2017 13:48

Latest

News

15th National Job Fair Offered Over 3,600 Vacancies Overseas And In Bhutan

Companies from Kuwait, India and officials from the language institutes in Japan also offered job opportunities and trainings at the fair.

May 20, 2018 08:52

Bhutan Observes World Telecommunications And Information Society Day

The theme of the celebration this year is “Enabling the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) for all.”

May 18, 2018 14:27

Features

Meet Bhutan's cerebral palsy 'foot' artist Pema Tshering

He was abandoned after his parents found out he had cerebral palsy. But a chance meeting with the Queen Mother turned his life around.

May 20, 2018 14:28

How Social Media Is Changing Lhuentse – A Remote Province In Bhutan

Lhuentse has achieved over 98% of telecommunication connectivity.

May 15, 2018 15:23

Sports

Bhutanese Athletes Preparing For The Tokyo Olympics

Japanese coaches and experts will visit Bhutan to train the athletes in preparation for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

May 05, 2018 15:46

Phub Zam Monger - First Judoka from Bhutan to Win a Medal

Of the five judokas that took part in the senior level’s 8th South Asian Judo Championship in Nepal, Phub Zam Monger was the lone athlete to...

May 02, 2018 15:12

Business

Azista Bhutan - A Pharmaceutical Plant To Be Set Up In Samdrup Jongkhar In 2019

The ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of the pharmaceutical plant at Motanga Industrial Park was held on 17 May.

May 19, 2018 00:35

Seven Business Ideas Win Cash Prizes At The Business Idea Competition Of Bhutan

"A business idea’s real worth lies in the successful execution and not in the idea itself."

May 14, 2018 10:58

Travel

Therapeutic Power of the Gasa Hot Springs

Known for its healing powers, the Gasa tshachu attracts about 3,000 visitors every year, making it the most visited places of the country’s...

Apr 29, 2018 03:45

New Film Shows How These Elite Runners Finished World's Hardest Trek In Just 2 Weeks

It usually takes a month to complete the Snowman Trek, but this group of athletes have done it in just two weeks.

Apr 23, 2018 10:41

Lifestyle

Dish8Door Delivers Food And Happiness Right To Your Doorstep

Dish8Door is a delivery service with the motto ‘You Pick, We Deliver’.

May 17, 2018 17:17

A Woman Of Pure Heart Wins Best Short Film Award

A film with a message, A Woman Of Pure Heart touches on various social issues in Bhutan.

May 08, 2018 18:33

Subscribe to our newsletter

Never miss out on new happenings and news stories!