Since 2017, and the tribute Five Flavours did to Bhutanese cinema, the country’s films have found a number of ways to reach audiences outside the nation, letting the world stage get to know the work of directors like Dechen Roder and Khyentse Norbu. This time it was Jamyang Jamtsho Wangchuk’s turn (an actor who appeared in “Seven Years in Tibet” and “Honeygiver Among the Dogs)” to present his second directorial work after “Gyalsey: Legacy of a Prince”.
“The Open Door” is screening at Aperture: Asia & Pacific Film Festival
The 15 minutes short is split in four acts following the life of Pema from birth to old age, each one representing a different phase in her life and in essence, of Bhutan. In the first part, she is a baby during the time of Bhutan’s bartering trade with Tibet; in the second, she is a bit older and we have reached the time of Kennedy’s death as so eloquently but also subtly stated in the part; in the third, Pema is a mother and in the fourth, when the village she grew up in is almost abandoned, she is a grandmother.
Jamyang Jamtsho Wangchuk directs an ode to minimalism and deduction, as the short takes place in a single room that is changed accordingly, in each act, in order to highlight the different timelines of the story. I found this approach and particularly the way time is indicated ingenious, as it is almost exclusively given through image and sound (people talks, mobile sounds, the change from the fireplace to the gas stove etc), in a tactic that will definitely make the film’s audience think. has done a great job in the cinematography, using a single frame to present a number of eras and sociopolitical comments about Bhutan. The fact that people talking are almost never depicted is another impressive tactic, which “forces” the audience to focus on the context and the comments of the film instead of characters.
These comments mostly deal with time and the changes it brings, highlighting mostly the fact that tradition has given its stead to progress, due to the spread of modern technology. This comment is again presented eloquently but subtly, as in the first segments the inhabitants of the house make a point of always having their door open, while in the last part, Pema’s daughter warns her not to leave the door unlocked since the current times are dangerous.
The only “fault” I found is that it is a bit difficult to discern the exact identity of the people “in focus”, since the elderly woman in the last part could be an older Pema talking to her daughter on the phone, but could also be Pema on the phone and her mother in the room. This, however, does not fault the narrative at all, since, as I stated before, the focus is not on people but on time.
“The Open Door” is a great short that highlights Jamyang Jamtsho Wangchuk’s intelligent direction and Chhoeku Dorji’s cinematography, in an impressive package that manages to present its comments through a very rewarding minimalism.