The Kingdom of Bhutan is no common place; and while it is one of the smallest countries in the world, its cultural variety and depth are heartfelt. Located in the breath-taking Eastern Himalayan mountain range, it presents the perfect opportunity for the filmmakers, climbers and photographers to experience the extraordinary beauty of the country.
The history of filmmaking in The Kingdom of Bhutan – when compared to other foreign countries – is relatively young (it started in the mid-1990’s), but it is already recognized by many. It is undeniably an emerging industry which we ought to be aware of. The latest production that hails from the country is Kushuthara: Pattern of Love, written and directed by Karma Deki.
Charlie (Emrhys Cooper), an American photographer and journalist, is sent to document the traditional weaving production in the village of Kurtoe-Menjey in the Kingdom of Bhutan. There, he meets Chokimo (a grand performance by Kezang Wangmo), a very skilled weaver. It doesn’t take long for him get himself embroiled in a romance with the woman, who, alas, is already involved with Bumpala (Bumpa Dorji), a local man. While spending more time together, Chokimo comes to the realisation that the memories of the past life, which she has been experiencing through dreams, might have united her and Charlie for a reason.
Karma Deki finely merges Buddhism and the art of weaving into a subtle storyline; the film also shows that the spiritual belief and the tradition of weaving are inseparable both as concepts and as living practices. Deki tells the story by using English as well as Bhutanese language, and with simple and tender, heart-warming dialogues, she keeps the audience engaged.
Aside from Charlie’ and Chokimo’s story, there is the one of two villagers – who lived before the aforementioned protagonists – Meto (a heart-breaking performance by Karma Chedon), a young girl, and Phuntsho (Kencho Wangdi), her older and mature lover, whose unconditional but tragic love tale ‘hunts’ Charlie and Chokimo in their dreams.
Bumpala, with a broken heart, observes Chokimo’s flourishing relationship; however, with her being obligated to him, she slowly recognises that her love for the young journalist cannot be fulfilled; she decides to leave Charlie and stay faithful to Bumpala. Like Meto, Chokimo loses what’s close to her heart; but what reason lies behind Chokimo’s decision?
Kushuthara: Pattern of Love is an honest and emotional picture of love set against awe-inspiring Bhutanese landscapes. The main cast delivered well throughout the film; Cooper and Kezang showed their characters’ vulnerability in a gentle way. Also Jamyang Jamtsho Wangchuk’s – he is known for his unforgettable performance as the young Dalai Lama in Seven Years in Tibet – solid performance in the role of a village guide shows that Bhutan has been ‘producing’ a good number of talented actors.
The editing by Marvin Nuecklaus and Edda Urup is undoubtedly flawless; and Rinzang’s sturdy camera work created an unforgettable portrait of the – sometimes unappreciated – Kingdom of Bhutan. The traditional sounds of a Bhutanese choir and the songs influenced by Bollywood music, composed by Tandin Dorji and Rayshaun Thompson, added a great note to the film; not to mention the stunning Bhutanese clothes which almost blinded me with their incredibly lively colours.
Kushuthara: Pattern of Love is the first Bhutanese film featuring a Western actor, and as Emrhys Cooper himself said, “Being chosen for a lead in a feature film is an exceptional honour for any actor. To couple that with being the first Western actor to star in a Bhutanese feature film is the highest of gifts. This honour and experience is one I will hold close to my heart and cherish forever.” Karma Deki proved that she has a great talent as an emerging female filmmaker who conveys beautiful stories through good films. There is no surprise that the film won a number of international film awards in 2016, including Best Foreign Narrative Film at the Laughlin International Film Festival. It is an essential viewing as it is a simple, yet truly lovely film.
Written by Maggie Gogler
Edited by Sanja Struna
All photos © Kushuthara: Pattern of Love