Bhutan | 2016 | 132 min | Dzongkha
In this ‘Buddhist noir’ from Bhutan, an undercover detective, Kinley, investigates the case of a missing nun and falls into a risky alliance with his only suspect— Choden, an alluring woman who is branded as a demoness in her village. Kinley slowly realises that Choden’s stories of historical dakinis—enlightened Buddhist women who hold great power and wisdom—might provide the very clues he needs to complete his investigation. But, to achieve such an understanding, he may have to surrender to both Choden’s charm and her belief in the supernatural… Director Dechen Roder offers an ethereal reinvention of a long-established genre, whilst also leaping into territory as yet untouched by Bhutanese filmmakers. The cinematography sticks to a subdued noir palette, except for fantasy scenes depicting Choden’s historical tales of emancipated nuns and goddesses, which deploy rich, radiant colours.
Born in 1980, Dechen Roder is one of the first female directors to emerge from Bhutan. She entered the film industry with no formal training and taught herself on the job. Dechen’s previous work includes the shorts Original Photocopy of Happiness (2011), Heart in the Mandala (2013) and Lo Sum Choe Sum (2015). Commenting on the background to her latest film, she says, “Growing up in Bhutan, my mother told me stories of dakinis. For the most part, dakini stories don’t float around much any more, as the male lens ironically becomes stronger when it comes to stories of our past. When I met a woman who had the dakini essence, it was the first time I realised the stories are more than just paintings on temple walls or in old texts. They are real-life stories of female strength, bravery, compassion and wisdom.”