Bhutan · Color · 90'
As Bhutan transitions to democracy, JAMYANG, a government officer from the capital, Thimphu, is sent to educate the people in a remote village. Hiding the fact that he was sent there as punishment for insubordination at work, the fate of his job lies in the completion of the task. He meets SONAM, a beautiful young girl from the village whom he grows fond of. The day the village stream dries up, Jamyang’s true story is exposed. To redeem himself, he offers to help find a water source. The only source lies high in the rugged mountains. Investigating a rumour by the village mute, TSAGAY, they discover a channel connecting the source to the village. However, another village claims ownership of the source. As is tradition, an archery match is arranged to settle the dispute. A strong earthquake rattles the region, permanently blocking the channel. However, the following morning, a spring flows by the village through an opening created by the earthquake.
Film happened to me by accident. When I was 14, I was chosen to play the young Dalai Lama in Seven Years in Tibet alongside Brad Pitt, a once in a lifetime experience. I grew up in an area where there was no electricity, nor telephone. During holidays I travelled to different villages with my father, a civil servant, who educated villagers on health and sanitation. I came across many wonderful stories hidden within the mountains, waiting to be told.
The phrase ‘white gold’ refers to the rivers flowing through Bhutan, so called since water is Bhutan’s greatest resource and largest export through the sale of hydroelectric power to India. Bhutan is the only carbon negative country in the world. However, climate change has already affected my country with melting glaciers, flash floods and streams drying up.
In 2008, the King of Bhutan granted democracy to the people of Bhutan. This transition from monarchy to democracy provides the backdrop to this story.
I first met Jamyang through a chance meeting at Focus on Asia Fukuoka International Film Festival 2017, Japan. Having previously travelled across the Himalayas, including Bhutan, and together with my broader interest in Himalayan cinema, White Gold struck a chord with me and I was instantly captivated by this story. I am thrilled to have come on board this project at a very early stage, and with my background as a festival curator/programmer, distributor and in post-production, I will be providing input throughout development, production and post-production. We are equally keen to explore potential co-production partners in Asia and Europe.
I hope to approach this emotive issue from a fresh perspective. I will use mostly non-professional actors in real locations with natural lighting and sound. I like a freely moving style of photography as I do not like to cut or move the camera unless it is motivated. I like non-interventionist approaches to film directing and an avoidance of complex editing. These elements fulfil my desire to get closer to everyday reality, which is the essence of my film. I want to provide a window into reality and give a sense of honesty that will help emphasise the subject matter. I am particularly inspired by Kurosawa’s and Kiarostami’s bodies of work.
Jamyang Jamtsho Wangchuk
Shooting start date
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