Interview with Pema "Tintin" Tshering: We are not getting any help from the government, but whatever we do, the government supports.

We speak with Pema "Tintin" Tshering about his different capacities, the film, the movie/art scene of Bhutan and many other topics.


Pema "Tintin" Tshering is the director of the short feature "In the Realm of Gods", visual artist using traditional and modern graphic techniques, author of paintings and comic books. His works were shown at individual and collective exhibitions in Bhutan and abroad, including in Taiwan, Japan, Bangladesh, Thailand and the US.

On the occasion of  "In the Realm of Gods" screening at Five Flavours, we speak to him about his different capacities, the film, the movie/art scene of Bhutan and many other topics.


You deal with comics, design, animation, illustration, sculpture and painting, and now you are also shooting movies. Where do you find the time, and which one do you prefer doing? 

I do not have a preference. Depending on the idea, I choose which of the above suits it better. For example, I may feel that an idea of mine will make a good sculpture, so I just do a sculpture and the same applies to paintings, etc. I do not want the medium to restrict me in my creation, so I just do what I feel



Can you tell us a bit about VAST, and how it has shaped your career?

VAST is the only contemporary art center in Bhutan. During my time, there was no art curriculum in schools, so I was one of the starting students, one of the founding members, I joined when I was 13. I was already interested in sketching, but it was there where I had all the classes, met all the artists, and was guided. Whatever I am now is because of VAST

Do you plan to become a feature/full time director?

Yes, actually I have a script for an animation ready and I want to direct it, but I have some trouble with the funding. There is an animation studio that is ready to work on the film, but I did not have much time to put the concept together. I asked them to prepare a short clip, but they haven't been able to do it, because they have to survive also and they have other projects, so they have to do it in their own time. So, I have to look for funding, because the script is ready and they are ready.
 
Can you tell me a bit about the Captain America painting?



Captain America is part of a series I did, that also included gangsters for example, that I drew through spirituality. In Buddhism, they have this saying that "Every human being has a Buddha inside them, you just need to awaken it". So, I was trying to show the spiritual part of that concept and I really like Captain America, since I read a lot of comics and that is why I chose him. Actually, I read whatever I can get, because it is very difficult to get comics in Bhutan (laughs). So that is what I was trying to show, the spiritual side of Captain America

The fact that you are a family of artists (he is married to Dechen Roder, director of "Honeygiver Among the Gods"), do you think it helps you in your art?

Yes, it is definitely helpful, because she always encourages me and is very supportive and I try to do the same with her, I try to help her any way I can. I think that we are very good for each other; it is good to be married to another artist, who understands you and can share ideas.


Can you tell me a bit more about the concept of mask dancers? 

In every district in Bhutan, there is a festival and they have masked dancers in those festivals, who tell tales, stories for the living to understand death and after death. So all these stories are weaved into the dance, for people to watch and learn, and to enjoy.

Do they also narrate? 

No, but it is nice because the people know the stories and they are only interested in the dance. Some stories deal with the preparation for death and some are just tales about good things or bad things.

Is the main actor actually a dancer? 

No, he is an actor.

So, the dance at the end of the film is performed by somebody else? 

No, what happened is that for this role, Tshering Dorji (the protagonist) was so interested in the part that he actually learned the dance from a master, and in that way, he was very professional.


With the story in the film, was your purpose to show that tradition is being put behind with new things taking their place, since the master in the film cannot support his family anymore by performing? 

No, it was not that he could not do other things, instead he was such a great dancer and people praised him for that, they came to pay their respects and  I wanted to lean on that concept, and that is why the film is called "In the Realm of the Gods". His character, when he puts on the mask, he becomes part of that realm, but that is why he is having so much trouble.

In general, do you feel that Bhutanese people retain their traditions? 

Yes, they are, but the trouble these old masters have, despite the fact that they are so skilled and talented, is that they don't have formal education. So they do not get the kind of salary or position they should be getting due to their experience, and that is one aspect I wanted to show in the film.

Religion seems to be a very important part of Bhutan. Is that so, is religion actually a part of everyday life?

Yes, it is important, but not in-your-face important, it is just a part of life.

What does the dance in the end of the film signify?

I really did not focus on what kind of dance he has to perform, I just wanted for it not to be controversial. Because some dances are sacred, you cannot just perform them, they are only presented in festivals. So, I just wanted it to be a simple dance.


What is your opinion of the art scene in Bhutan at the moment? And what about the movie scene?  

Just now, because of VAST, that has a gallery, and holds art classes and offers scholarships for students who are interested and send them to colleges, there is actually a small community of artists that help each other. But in film, because there is no specific organization, most of them work independently and separately.

Is there any kind of support from the state?   

My teacher, Asha Karma, received a golden medal from the King for his contribution and the King and the Queen are actually paying the rent for the VAST studio. We are not getting any help from the government, but whatever we do, the government supports.

Which are your favorite filmmakers/movies?

I watch a lot of animation, Studio Ghibli's animation like "Spirited Away" and I think Miyazaki is my favorite director.

So, do Studio Ghibli's films screen in Bhutan?

 There is a Japanese Association in Bhutan, so sometimes they have a screening. But other than that, we have to look for films online, but it is difficult because we do not have credit cards in Bhutan. We are starting to have, but nobody knows how this thing is going work (laughs).

It is actually strange for me to listen to these things about Bhutan. Do you prefer it like that, not having credit cards for example?  

People seem to have so much trouble with debt because of credit cards, but sometimes, for useful things, I wish we could buy them.

Like Studio Ghibli films, for example? 

(Both Laugh) Yes, yes, because now sometimes the quality of the films is not good or you cannot get subtitles.

What are your plans for the future, in general, apart from the animation you mentioned? 

I want to have more solo exhibitions and VAST always has lots of programs.

The exhibitions take place in Thimpu? 

Yes, in VAST studio, but there are other places like museums and galleries, but only a few places. And about my animation movie, I am really trying to get it going, to find the time and the money to make it a full feature.

How much time did you spend shooting "In the Realms of Gods"?

It was a very organic film, because Dechen and I started a short film festival, and for the first edition, we were not sure if there were going to be enough films, so I shot "In the Realms of Gods" and Dechen  "An Original Photocopy of Happiness". And actually, in my film, in the scene the dance master is walking in the street, I wanted this image to stay with my audience, because that is very unusual, you never see masters walking in the street. And you can actually see the reaction of people, turning their heads and wondering what is going on. This is actually the main street of Thimpu, and this just does not happen. I wanted to make a statement, having him dance in front of a theatre.


So, can you tell me a bit about the festival?    

The festival is called Beskop Tsechu and is focused on short films. We have organized it four times now, and the first time we did, was just a test to see how many films we could get. We had one screening room and about ten films, so it was quite good. The reason we started it is that the audience can easily watch feature films but do not have much experience and there is no platform for experimental films. So, the quality of the feature films is not so good, because the filmmakers cannot experiment with their films. Therefore, by giving a platform for short films, we give a chance to filmmakers, indirectly, to help them make better films. Another purpose is to educate the audience, because they mostly watch commercial films influenced from Bollywood, and they think there is nothing more. 


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Johnson,1,Matthias Hoene,1,Maundy Thursday,1,Mayurakshi,1,Meghe Dhaka Tara,1,Memoir of a Murderer,1,Merantau,1,Mermaid,1,Michael Haertlein,1,Michelle Hung Tsz-ching,2,Midi Z,1,Midnight Runners,1,Midori Impuls,2,Midori The Camelia Girl,1,Mikhail Red,3,Milk the Maid,1,Ming-Yeh Rawnsley,1,Minoru Kunizawa,1,Mira Nair,1,Miss Zombie,1,Miwa Nishikawa,2,Mohammad Rasoulof,1,Mohammad-Reza Lotfi,1,Mon Mon Mon Monsters,1,Mong-Hong Chung,2,Monika S-r,1,Monologue,1,Moon Lovers,1,Mototsugu Watanabe,3,Mouly Surya,3,Mountains May Depart,1,Mourning Forest,1,Movie,2,Moving,1,Mr. Socrates,1,Mrs Fang,1,Mrs K,2,Mukti Bhawan (Hotel Salvation),1,Mumon: The Land of Stealth,1,Museum,1,My Beloved Yak,1,My Dad and Mr Ito,1,Myanmar,1,Nah Hyeon,1,Nandita Roy,1,Naoko Ogigami,5,Naomi Kawase,3,Naosuke Kurosawa,1,Naoyuki Tomomatsu,3,Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit,1,Neeraj Ghaywan,1,Neko Atsume House,1,Neomanila,1,Nepal,1,Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival,1,New Neighbor,2,News,3,Newton,1,Nicholas Poly,4,Night Bus,1,Night is Short,1,Night is Short Walk on Girl,1,Night of the Felines,1,Nikkatsu,1,Nikola Cekic,1,Ninja Pussy Cat,1,Nirbaak,1,Niwatsukino Norihiro,1,Noboru Tanaka,1,Noboru Uguchi,1,Nobuhiro Yamashita,2,Nobuo Nakagawa,2,Nobuyuki Takeuchi,2,Noise,1,Non-fiction Diary,1,Norbu,1,Norihiro Niwatsukino,1,Norjmaa,1,Norman England,2,North Korea,2,Nurse Diary: Beast Afternoon,1,NYAFF,34,Odd Obsession,1,Old Boy,2,Old Stone,1,Old-School Kung-Fu Fest,3,Omar Rasya Joenoes,3,On the Job,1,On The Line Festival,3,On the Run,1,Onibaba,1,Operation Red Sea,1,Ophilia,1,Ordinary Person,1,Osamu Sato,1,Our Happy time,1,Our Time Will Come,1,Outrage Coda,1,Over the Fence,1,Oxide Pang,1,Padmavati,2,Palatpol Mingpornpichit,2,Pale Flower,1,Panos,1,Panos Kotzathanasis,216,Paresh Mokashi,1,Park Chan-wook,2,Park Hoon-Jung,2,Park In-je,1,Park Ki- hyung,1,Park Kwang-hyun,1,Parkpoom Wongpoom,1,Party Round the Globe,1,Past and Future,1,Patrick Hofmeister,56,Pedro Morata,9,Peerachai Kerdsint,1,Pelden Dorji,1,Pema "Tintin" Tshering,1,Pema Tshering,1,Pen-Ek Ratanaruang,2,Peng Xiaolian,1,Pepe Diokno,1,Perfect Blue,2,Peter Chan,1,Peter Chen,1,Phanumad Disattha,1,Philippines,11,Pieter - Jan Van Haecke,4,Pieter-Jan Van Haecke,7,Pink Eiga,10,PinkEiga.TV,1,pinku eiga,1,Pinneyum,1,Poet on a Business Trip,1,Poolside Man,1,Posto,1,Press Release,2,Prophecy,1,Proshoon Rahmaan,2,Psychic,1,Rabbit and Lizard,1,Radiance,1,Rage. Lee Sang-il,1,Rahul Jain,1,Railway Sleepers,1,Rainy Dog,1,Raja Mukhriz,1,Rajkumar Gupta,1,Randy Mckenzie,4,Rape Zombie: Lust of the Dead,1,Rape Zombie: Lust of the Dead 2,1,Ravine of Goodbye,1,Re:Born,1,Real,1,Realism,1,Red Beard,1,Red Persimmons,1,Reipu zonbi: Lust of the dead 3,1,Resistance at Tule Lake,1,Revenge: A love story,1,Review,6,Reviews,230,Reviews.,2,Reviews. Panos Kotzathanasis,1,Riri Riza,3,Ritwik Ghatak,2,River of Exploding Durians,1,Robin Weng,1,Roger Lee,1,Roman Porno,1,Ronja,1,Rouge,1,Running on Karma,1,Russia,1,RV: Resurrected Victims,1,Ryoo Seung-wan,1,Ryota Sakamaki,1,S. Korea,64,S.Korea,2,Saayak Santra,9,Sabrina Baracetti,1,Sabu,3,Salaam Bombay,1,Samui Song,1,San Diego Asian Film Festival,13,San Diego Film Festival,1,Sanjay Leela Bhansali,2,Sanjeewa Pushpakumara,2,Sankha Ray,28,Satan's Slaves,3,Satoru Hirohara,1,Satoshi Kon,3,Satyajit Ray,1,Say Yes,1,Sayandeep Bandyopadhyay,6,Scarlet Heart,1,Score,1,Seijun Suzuki,3,Sekigahara,1,Serga Mathang,1,Sexy S.W.A.T. Team,1,Sha Po Lang,1,Shakti Sounder Rajan,1,Shanjhey Kumar Perumal,1,Shanker Raman,1,Shaw Brothers,1,She's the Boss,1,Shiboprosad Mukherjee,1,Shigeru Umebayashi,1,Shikhar Verma,11,Shikhar Verna,3,Shinji Somai,2,Shinji Sômai,1,Shinjuku Swan,1,shinjuku Swan II,1,Shinjuku Triad Society,1,Shinobi no Kuni,2,Shinsuke Ogawa,1,Shinsuke Sato,1,Shinya Tsukamoto,3,Shireen Seno,1,Shirley Abraham,1,Shock Wave,1,Shôhei Imamura,1,Shoot for the Contents,1,Shorts,2,Shotaro Kobayashi,1,Shu Qi,1,Shunji Iwai,2,Shutter,1,Shyam Ramsay,1,Siddiq Ahamed,1,Sidharth Bharathan,1,Signature,1,Singapore,1,Singh Anand,1,Singing Chen,1,Sinophone,1,Sion Sono,10,Siti,1,Sixth Sense Hooker,1,Slavemen,1,Sleep Curse,1,Small Talk,1,Sogo Ishii,2,Solitude,1,Solo,1,Someone To Talk To,1,Sompot Chidgasompongse,2,Song Hae-sung,1,Song Kang-ho,1,Song of the Week,19,Sopawan Boonnimitra,1,Sopon Sakdapisit,1,Soul,1,Soul Mate,1,SoulMate,2,South Korea,16,Sri Lanka,3,Srijit Mukherji,7,Stanley Kwan,1,Stanley Tong,1,Stephen Chow,1,Stephen Fung,2,Steve James,1,Still the Water,1,Stoneman Murders,1,Story in Taipei,1,Strange Circus,1,Studio Ghibli,1,StudioCanal,4,Subenja Pongkorn,2,Suffering of Ninko,2,Sugihara Survivors: Jewish and Japanese,1,Suicide Club,1,Suman Mukhopadhay,1,Summer Snow,1,Sun-ho Cho,1,Sunao Katabuchi,3,Sunday Beauty Queen,1,Sung-hong Kim,1,Susumu Hirasawa,1,Tadashi Nagayama,1,Tae Guk Gi,1,Tag,1,Taiwan,24,Takaaki Hashiguchi,1,Takahide Hori,1,Takahisa Zeze,1,Takao Nakano,1,Takashi Miike,10,Take Care of My Cat,1,Takeo Kikuchi,2,Takeshi Kaneshiro,1,Takeshi Kitano,1,Takuro Nakamura,2,Talop Wangchuk,1,Tamil,1,Tamura Senichi,1,Tanit Jitnukul,1,Tanvir Ashraf,1,Tatara Samurai,1,Tatsuhi Omori,1,Tatsumi,1,Tatsumi Kumashiro,1,Teddy Soeriaatmadja,1,Teenkahon,1,Tetsuya Mariko,1,Tetsuya Nakashima,1,Thailand,20,Thanatos Drunk,1,That's It,1,The Adventurers,2,The Apology,1,The Bad,1,The Boy and the Beast,3,The boy from Ipanema,1,The Brink,1,The Chase,1,The Cinema Travellers,1,The Crawler in the Attic,1,The Crazy Family,1,The Day After,1,The Detective,1,The Dollhouse,1,The elephant and the sea,1,The Executioner,1,The Eye's Dream,1,The Forsaken Land,1,The Fortress,1,The Gangster's Daughter,1,The Girl Who Never Knew War,1,The Golden Fortress,1,The Good,1,The Great Buddha+,1,The Great Passage,1,The Hole,1,The Inugami Family,1,The Iron Ministry,1,The Island That All Flow By,1,The Isthmus,1,The King of Pigs,1,The Last Executioner,1,The Last Painting,1,The Long Excuse,1,The Looming Storm,1,The Lowlife,1,The Magic Blade,1,The Man Without a Map,1,The Mayor,1,The Merciless,2,The Mermaid,1,The Muse,1,The Naked Island,1,The Net,1,The Prison,1,The Promise,1,The Raid,1,The Raid 2,1,The recipe,1,The Road Home,1,The Road to Mandalay,1,the Robber's Daughter,1,The Room,1,The Salesman,1,The Sleep Curse,1,The Sower,2,The Story of the Disappearance of Maryam,1,The Strange Saga of Hiroshi the Freeloading Sex Machine,1,The Swindlers,1,The Table,1,The Third Murder,1,The Thousand Faces of Dunjia,1,The Tiger: An Old Hunter's Tale,1,The Tokyo Night Sky is Always the Densest Shade of Blue,1,The Tooth and the Nail,1,The Truth Beneath,1,The Villainess,3,The Violin Player,1,The Way We Are,1,The Weird,1,The Windmill Palm Grove,1,Third WIndow,1,This Is Not What I Expected,1,This Is Not What I Expected!,1,Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum,1,Three Sisters,1,Three Times,1,Tiffany Hsiung,1,Tik Tik Tik,1,Tôkaidô Yotsuya kaidan,1,Tokyo Ghoul,1,Tokyo Heaven,1,Tokyo Idols,1,Tokyo Vampire Hotel,1,Tolerance Film Festival,1,Tom Waller,2,Tony Leung,1,Tony Takitani,1,Torico,2,Toronto International Film Festival,1,Toshiaki Toyoda,2,Toshihisa Yokoshima,3,Toshimasha Kobayashi,1,Toshio Matsumoto,1,Toshiya Fujita,1,Town in a Lake,1,Traces of Sin,1,Trailers,66,Train to Busan,1,Tran Ham,1,Translated articles,1,Trapped,1,Travellers and Magicians,1,Trinh T. Minh-Ha,3,Triple Threat,1,Tsai Ming-liang,2,Tulsi Ramsay,1,Twilight Dinner,1,Twitch: You Are My Toy,1,Typhoon Club,1,Um Tae-hwa,1,Unbowed,1,V.I.P.,1,Vampire Cleanup Department,1,Vanishing Time A Boy Who Returned,1,Vannaphone Sitthirath,1,various,1,Varnyathil Aashanka,1,Verena Paravel,1,Vesoul International Film Festival,6,Vidya Balan,1,Vietnam,5,Vikramaditya Motwane,1,Vimukthi Jayasundara,1,Vinay Shukla,1,Violated Angels,1,Visitor Q,1,Vital,1,Vitaly Mansky,1,Voyage to Terengganu,1,Wai Ka-fai,1,Walk on Girl,1,Wang Bing,2,Wang Lung-wei,1,Wang Ming-tai,1,Warriors of the Dawn,2,Weeds on Fire,1,Wei-Hao Cheng,1,Wellgo USA,1,West North West,2,What A Wonderful Family 2,1,What Time Is It There?,1,Whispering Corridors,1,Whispering Star,1,White Sun,1,Who Killed Cock Robin,1,Whore Angel,1,Wilson Yip,1,Wiman Rizkidarajat,1,Wine War,1,With Prisoners,1,Woman of the Lake,1,Won Shin-Yeon,1,Wong Chun,3,Wong Jing,1,Wong Kar-wai,2,Woo Ming Jin,1,Xaisongkham Induangchanthy,1,Xu Bing,1,Ya-che Yang,1,Yamato (California),4,Yan Pak Wing,2,Yang Chao,2,Yang Ik-june,1,Yang Jong-hyeon,1,Yao Tian,1,Yeon Sang-ho,2,Yes Madam,1,Yeti Obhijaan,2,Yiu-wai Chu,1,Yoji Yamada,1,Yoo Ha,1,Yoon-chul chung,1,Yoonsuk Jung,1,Yosep Anggi Noen,1,Yoshihiro Hanno,1,Yoshihiro Nakamura,2,Yoshihiro Nishimura,3,Yoshimasa Jimbo,1,Yoshinari Nishikori,1,Yoshishige Yoshida,1,Yoshitaka Mori,1,Yoshiyuki Kishi,1,Yosuke Takeuchi,2,Yotsuya kaidan,1,You Losers!,1,Your Name,1,Youth,1,Yu Aoi,2,Yu Irie,1,Yu Sang-wook,1,Yuen Chor,1,Yuen Woo-ping,1,Yuji Shimomura,1,Yûji Tajiri,2,Yujiro Harumoto,2,Yuki Tanada,1,Yukihiko Tsutsumi,1,Yusaku Matsumoto,1,Yutaka Ikejima,2,Yutaro Nakamura,1,Yuya Ishii,2,Zakka Films,1,Zhang Lu,1,Zhang Yimou,1,Zombiology: Enjoy Yourself Tonight,1,Zuri Rinpoche. Bhutan. Five Flavours,1,
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Asian Film Vault: Interview with Pema "Tintin" Tshering: We are not getting any help from the government, but whatever we do, the government supports.
Interview with Pema "Tintin" Tshering: We are not getting any help from the government, but whatever we do, the government supports.
We speak with Pema "Tintin" Tshering about his different capacities, the film, the movie/art scene of Bhutan and many other topics.
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Asian Film Vault
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