Independent Lens: Happiness

About This Episode

Nestled at the eastern end of the Himalayas, the tiny nation of Bhutan is famous for being the one place committed to “Gross National Happiness,” with an economy serving a culture based on Buddhist spiritual values. Over a decade after the King of Bhutan ushered in a new modern era, the remote mountainside village of Laya is still without electricity. Here Peyangki, a dreamy and solitary nine-year old in training to be a monk, yearns for the modern world to come to him in the form of a flickering television screen.

Between studying and prayer, he watches as his world is encroached upon by electrical cables and roads. When he is taken to Thimphu, Bhutan’s largest city, by his uncle, Peyangki gets a glimpse of consumerism as they search for the perfect TV set to bring back to the village. Happiness captures the innocent beauty in the faces of the subjects and illuminates a complicated time when a way of life that has been relatively unchanged for hundreds of years meets the seduction of technology.