Storyline of “Bhutan -- Taking the Middle Path to Happiness”
Tucked away in the Himalayas, Bhutan is one of the least accessible countries during much of the 20th century. But the modern world is gradually encroaching on this nation of 650,000 people. The nation’s motto, to balance Gross National Product with Gross National Happiness, is a crafted plan to preserve the country’s cultural values, natural resources and provide economical development at a productive pace. This refreshing approach to “good governance” may be a model for the world and is the core content of the film.
The King of Bhutan, the last of the Buddhist monarchs in the Himalayas, is rapidly transitioning the government to a democracy. Government policy is influenced by Buddhist teachings that all forms of life and the environment are sacred. It dictates that trees, sky, water all contain spirits and are guarded by protective deities. This reverence for nature, in combination with a small population, has preserved Bhutan’s enormous wealth of natural resources. Seventy percent of Bhutan remains a forested home to animals and plants that have disappeared elsewhere in the region. Placed between Chinese occupied Tibet and a billion (energy starved) Indians, the Bhutanese themselves could be endangered…or poised to benefit themselves and the region.
Bhutan’s mountainous geography and its abundance of fast-flowing rivers give it huge hydroelectric power potential. Hydroelectric power is Bhutan’s largest resource and is managed so it is sustainable, renewable and environmentally friendly. Only a small percentage of Bhutan’s hydroelectric potential is currently being utilized. With Bhutan’s power potential, it could easily serve as a large net power producer and exporter to neighboring countries such as India.
Bhutan’s commitment to economic growth through hydroelectric development, while preserving its cultural heritage, environment and reverence for life, is quite unique in the world.
The one-hour documentary examines the efforts of Bhutan’s government to create “Gross National Happiness” (Taking The Middle Path) for its people by promoting these four pillars: (1) Environmental Preservation, (2) Cultural Promotion, (3) Economic Development through hydroelectric power and (4) Good Governance. “Bhutan -- Taking the Middle Path to Happiness” focuses on two primary characters: Prime Minister Lynpo Yeshey Zimba and Jigme Drukpa, Bhutanese traditional musician and Director of the National Academy of Performing Arts. Prime Minister Lynpo Yeshey Zimba and Jigme Drukpa present the government’s plan to create “Gross National Happiness,” all quite articulate and convincing in their presentations. Each pillar is discussed in detail with comments from other government officials and local people accompanied by beautiful b-roll footage offering compelling story line with incredible stimulating visuals. Music provided by Jigme Drukpa, Paul Horn and Christopher Hedge from a live concert performed for King Jigme Wangchuck’s birthday is presented after each pillar. For example, Jigme Drukpa performed a song titled; “The Black Neck Crane Song.” The music is used during the “Protect the Environment” pillar segment. Beautiful scenic footage of the cranes in central Bhutan along with other shots featuring Bhutan’s Himalaya Mountains and natural beauty is shown. The music and scenery are breathtaking!
It’s important to note that Christopher Hedge composed the soundtrack for the program in surround sound using traditional music. There is an inherent freedom in his work filled with joy, adventure and emotion. It's a freedom that invites the audience to discover the music rather then simply listen to it. He makes you a willing traveler in a fascinating world.
It could be very possible that Bhutan will be able to reach its goals and might very well become a model for other nations. For example, currently the country has only tapped 5% of its hydro-power potential, yet it funds the majority of the government budget. The goal is to have the entire country electrified by FY 2020 with free health care and education for all its citizens. Since the country began developing its economy, the environmental destruction has decreased. In fact, the country’s forest cover has increased with villagers using electricity rather then burning wood for fuel. A World AIDS conference was held last year in one of Bhutan’s most remote areas.
While Bhutan is a small “third world country,” it nonetheless is a land of visionary leaders and wisdom. It is truly making an effort to take care of its people by preserving its environment and culture, producing economic development, and conducting honest government. It’s a world bringing optimism, a feeling of happiness and hope.