For the first time, a national policy for the film industry is finally materializing that would define the roles and responsibilities for the Bhutanese film sector. The primary purpose of this policy is to facilitate the growth of Bhutanese cinema into a vibrant industry of international repute that affirms and promotes Bhutan’s cultural and artistic expression for the overall social and economic development of the country.
Bhutan has seen tremendous growth in the film industry over the past years. However, its growth remained quantitative without substantial improvement in the craft of filmmaking and storytelling. More importantly, the industry was growing in the absence of a national policy and vision for the development of the audio visual media.
His Majesty the King, in an audience granted to the members of the film fraternity in 2010, commanded that proper development plans be charted out.
The formulation of a national film policy in enhancing film industry in Bhutan became one of the mandates for the ruling government in achieving the vision of His Majesty within the first 100 days of its term.
Two separate studies to assess the status of the industry were commissioned by the royal secretariat accordingly, before the policy was drafted.
Though film industry in Bhutan boomed within a short span of time, producing 30 films a year by 2010 yet without policy in place its growth lacked in the quality department.
Much of the poor quality of films has been attributed to the challenges faced by the film industry such as lack of a film school and film development fund to support the production of innovative and creative films.
General Secretary of the Bhutan Film Association (BFA) Sherub Gyeltshen said “without such policy,
film industry in Bhutan is developing at a snail’s pace, lacking progress in production, distribution and exhibition.”
He added that beginning the production has plummeted to 14 films this year from 30 in previous years. This, he said is due to lack of support and system in place to promote Bhutanese films and the economic downfall of the country equally contributing to the fall.
Sherub Gyeltshen also shared that an essential cause in limiting creativity in Bhutanese films is due to the lack of film schools and very little and uncoordinated trainings in the sector. Another impediment to creative innovation are the current systems of obtaining permits and of reviewing, which
create artistic and economic insecurity for the film sector that has led filmmakers to ‘playing it safe’.
However with the policy in place, the General Secretary said it would help promote Bhutanese films abroad, encourage and facilitate co-productions between foreign and Bhutanese filmmakers, eventually branding Bhutan internationally through films.
The draft policy in one of its significant clause stated that the film industry shall ensure women and ethnic minorities to be included in suitable professional roles.
The policy also aims at boosting creativity and encouraging production of meaningful films, developing a broader range of film genres and formats to cater to all population groups and a sustainable film industry.
Other primary objectives include branding Bhutan internationally through films, working towards nation-wide access to films on all platforms, professionalizing and organizing the film sector and developing film as an active employer of professionals among many others.
The time line to achieve the goals of this Policy shall be 2018 and will be subject to periodic review.