Bhutan: Change Comes to the Himalayan Happy Kingdom

Bhutan: Change Comes to the Himalayan Happy Kingdom

2020, Society  -   6 Comments
Ratings: 7.25/10 from 12 users.

The remote Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan appears and operates much as it did one hundred years ago. But the unavoidable seeds of change are beginning to blossom. Bhutan: Change Comes to the Himalayan Happy Kingdom is a complex examination of the crossroads between honoring the past and embracing the future.

The villagers live by strongly-held traditions. They tend to their yaks, milk their cows and use their land and limited resources to provide for their families the best they can. But they're becoming increasingly dependent upon the industrialized villages that surround them.

They travel to these distant villages to sell weaves of fabric and other goods. They're struggling in their efforts to switch to organic farming as a means of sustenance and commerce. The men trek great distances in perilous terrain in search of medicinal mushrooms. Once a vibrant source of income, these mushrooms are now in limited supply thanks in part to the ravages of climate change.

Behind the fa├žade of old tradition, there are signs of modernity. They may cook their meals on an open fire, but the electricity that powers their homes is generated by solar panels.

They want better lives for their children. One mother weeps as she sends her six-year old boy to study at a distant monastery. The parents want their children to transcend the hard-fought fate they've long endured.

Director Irja von Bernstorff knows the region and its people intimately. Since 2013, she's taken residence there with her husband and daughter. Her film captures both the serenities and harsh realities of the villagers' daily lives. We're made to feel the struggles of living in poverty in contrast to the richness of the awe-inspiring natural world that surrounds them. She follows each generation of villager - from the young boy who goes off to school to the young adult who breaks his back in search of food to the 73-year old who fights to stay relevant in a changing landscape.

The film is indeed a kind-hearted and immaculately observed portrait of a people in transition.

Directed by: Irja von Bernstorff

More great documentaries

Notify of

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
2 years ago

It is a very nice documentary. Loved it. Felt sad and happy (mixed feeling) for the boy and father on the monastery story. It must have been hard for the parents.

2 years ago


John Chan
2 years ago

The British ruled the place for hundreds of years, it is amazing that they managed to keep Bhutan as primitive as it could be for that long without bringing them any modernity. While the modernization of China just in tens of years could bring cell phones, solar panels, etc. all the modern convenience to Bhutan all over the places even in the remotest village to allow the villagers to contact experts in Switzerland for help on the blink.

It makes one wonder whether Bhutanese can sue the British for violating their human rights by keeping them in the stone age.

2 years ago


don duncan
2 years ago

Maybe the red ants have a symbiotic relationship with the plants, maybe not, but action needs to follow careful analysis, as in, "do nothing" outside of understanding. See: "The One Straw Revolution" - M. Fukuoka.