Honeygiver Among the Dogs (2016) by Dechen Roder

An undercover cop investigates the disappearance of an abbess in a remote village of Bhutan and becomes besotted with the mysterious and beautiful prime suspect.

 
“Honeygiver Among the Dogs” is an elegant and delicate “Buddhist Noir” from Bhutanese director Dechen Roden, at her first feature film. Presented at Busan International Film Festival 2017, it has drawn attention towards a country that is finding its place with gentle energy in the international attention.

Honeygiver Among the Dogs screened at Five Flavours


Pragmatic and diligent cop Kinley (Jamyang Jamtsho Wangchuk) is investigating the disappearance of the abbess in a remote village in Bhutan. Although the victim’s body is still missing, the Police has sent Kinley and his men to search for clues and locate the main suspect, a beautiful and mysterious young woman called Choden (Sonam Tashi Choden). Stigmatised by the locals as flirtatious and called “a demoness”, Choden has vanished and everybody seems to take it as proof of her culpability, and the only thing Kinley can do to find her is going undercover.

The plan is to approach her and befriend her in order to discover few more elements of the story but it’s Choden that makes the first move and asks the disguised cop to travel with her to Thimphu, the capital, pretending to be her husband and thus dodge the police who’s looking for a single woman. Buffled and clamsily keeping his appearance, Kinley accepts the offer and the couple starts a journey through the forest, during which the fascinating woman challenges the practical detective with beautiful tales of women and goddesses, ostracized by human ignorance and bigotry. Once in the capital city, the plot develops into a proper noir when Kinley becomes more and more obsessed with Choden’s innocence, but at the same time, is pushed by his superior to believe that he is under the woman’s mysterious influence. Firmly determined to unveil the truth, Kinley will come across an unexpected tangle of deception and corruption.


Slowly paced and beautifully shot by Director of Photography Jigme Tenzing, “Honeygiver among the Dogs” can be split neatly into two parts with two very distinctive moods. Firstly, the crossing of the forest is an enchanted journey in a mystic dimension of suspended time where all the seeds of knowledge are offered to the reluctant man. It’s Choden’s universe and it’s feminine and ethereal like her. In reverse, the second part is set in the heavy and noir-tinted realm of materialism, where Kinley’s playground is and where the thriller plot develops and unravels.

Dechen Roden has created an elliptical Yin and Yang where the protagonists confront and complete each other, narrated with a gentle voice but at the same time strongly grounded into the current issues and consequences of an ancient culture facing a fast-paced mutation.

Virtually unknown to the general public Sonam Tashi Choden at her first acting job, and Jamyang Jamtsho Wangchuk (he was the child Dalai Lama in "Seven Years in Tibet") are the two handsome and inspired protagonists, with enough chemistry to show attraction and distance in a truly convincing way. The slow and naturalistic style of the first part contrasts with the darker second half, without conflicting and the director's personal style (she is the editor too) makes the whole work organic and well flowing.

Talented and inspired, Roden has blown a spiritual and exotic life into a genre often over-used and her debut movie is contributing to place Bhutan on the map of quality cinema.

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Asian Film Vault: Honeygiver Among the Dogs (2016) by Dechen Roder
Honeygiver Among the Dogs (2016) by Dechen Roder
An undercover cop investigates the disappearance of an abbess in a remote village of Bhutan and becomes besotted with the mysterious and beautiful prime suspect.
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