The small Himalayan country of Bhutan, whose policy of measuring happiness has inspired the UN and other countries to include well-being as a development goal, is making quite a stir on the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter. "The Happiest Place", a documentary film directed by Palo Alto-based independent filmmaker Ben Henretig, explores Gross National Happiness (GNH) in Bhutan through the lens of a human-powered, border-to-border crossing of the country. With less than a week left, the project is the top-funded film campaign live on Kickstarter with over $83,000 raised and 700 supporters - 182% of their original goal.
"With the election and concern over the economy there are lots of people eager to find a way forward that doesn't compromise their values - and Bhutan has been exploring this territory with Gross National Happiness for over 40 years" said director Ben Henretig, who just returned from two weeks of collaboration on the score for the film with Grammy award-winning winning musician Imogen Heap. Imogen joined the expedition through the highest passes of the journey and will be writing an original piece of music for the film that will be featured on her upcoming album as her latest "HeapSong," due to release early 2013. Bay Area avant cellist, Zoe Keating, will also be composing music for the film.
In November, Henretig joined a team of four accomplished endurance athletes to undertake the first-ever crossing of Bhutan, 485 miles by foot and by bike, from the country's westernmost edge as it butts up against Tibet, all the way to its eastern border as it touches India. The journey explores the geographic and cultural wonders of a country that has been protected from the outside world for hundreds of years, guided by Bhutan's spiritual currency of "happiness" to explore the question "What matters most?"
Bhutan is the last remaining Buddhist kingdom in the world and it is the only country to guide its policy according to Gross National Happiness rather than Gross Domestic Product. The people of the tiny, isolated kingdom are coming to terms with globalization while ensuring that they preserve their identity and way of life.
Recently, the Bhutanese Prime Minister Jigmi Y. Thinley convened an assembly at the UN to explore pathways towards a holistic, sustainable development paradigm, bringing the conversation about happiness from the fringe into the mainstream. A Bhutanese government website declared it as, "a landmark step towards adoption of a new global sustainability-based economic paradigm for human happiness and well-being of all life forms to replace the current dysfunctional system that is based on the unsustainable premise of limitless growth on a finite planet."
By showcasing Bhutan's fragile natural beauty and traditional culture, challenged by its recent modernization, "The Happiest Place" hopes to continue the global conversation around responsible development.
You can visit the film's site: http://thehappiestplacefilm.com
Image Courtesy: Flickr