Kushuthara, set for its US release in the spring, is likely to be one of the first Bhutanese films to make a real splash in Europe and North America courtesy of Emrhys Cooper, the first western actor to star in a Bhutanese film, starring as a journalist who begins a love affair with a Bhutanese girl.
Kushuthara, which in Bhutanese means “love token woven in cloth”, brings this beautiful part of the world to life as a western journalist gets caught in a love affair with a Bhutanese girl (Kezang Wangmo). Notable for being the first Bhutanese film to star a western actor (Emrhys Cooper from TV’s Vanity & Person of Interest, and the movie Mamma Mia)), Kushuthara, directed by Karma Deki and also starring Jamyang Jamtsho Wangchuck (who appeared alongside Brad Pitt in Seven Years In Tibet), will be released theatrically in North America this spring.
In her native Kingdom of Bhutan, Karma Deki is one its leading directors since graduating from the New York Film academy. She has directed two uniquely Bhutanese films: Dangphu, which depicted the impact of unfairly heavy taxes on several low-paid workers, and Four Friends, which follows the collaborative friendship in a forest between an elephant, a rabbit, a monkey, and a partridge.
Bhutan’s small film industry has historically taken its inspiration from the cinema of India, but Kushuthara aims for a more western storytelling style, with the country’s Buddhist legacy remaining a cornerstone of the narrative (the film’s notes say: “[Kushuthara] explores the Buddhist concept of karma and the possibility of rebirth of two persons in one lifetime to accomplish what was left unrealised in a previous life”. A winner in its homeland, the film features one of the country’s biggest stars – Kezang Wangmo – who mixes time on the silver screen with politics as a member of the Bhutanese parliament.
Filmed over three years ago, Cooper said at the time that his worldview had changed as a result of spending six weeks in the South Asian Himalayan country. He said, “Life in Bhutan is rich, vivacious and splendid, filled with an appreciation for home, love, family and beauty.
“My time there awakened me and I was completely inspired by the level of contentment and utter joy that the Bhutanese people feel within their daily lives. While our western perspective tends to centre on achievement, theirs is centric upon happiness. The Bhutanese taught me to understand the importance of living in the moment, in both my personal and creative lives, and my experience truly changed my outlook and my view of happiness itself. It’s completely re-arranged the furniture in my mind.”
A multi-award winner already, Kushuthara counts “Best Foreign Narrative Film” at the Laughlin International Film Festival and “Honorable Mention” for Cooper at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival among its accolades. It will appear in a number of film festivals in 2017, arrive in select US theatres in the spring and also be available on VOD platforms.