German filmmaker Irja and Bhutanese farmer Sangay see how quickly Bhutan, after centuries of isolation, starts falling through the traps of unsustainable growth: replacing their home grown food by lower quality imports from India, youth emigrating to cities facing unemployment, loss of their customs and culture in favor of Western models. Passionate and equally idealistic that this trend can be reverted, they team up to make a 25-episode fiction TV series for the only Bhutanese TV-channel, promoting an autonomous modern and sustainable agriculture. Offering an alternative to city life the story of the TV series appeals to a young Bhutanese audience in identity crisis, disconnected from their parent’s generation of traditional farmers.
Irja and Sangay risk to fail when the very same forces that threaten Bhutan to collapse strain their relationship. Despite their shared vision, locals and foreigners can’t seem to agree on the very basics of collaborating in the project: no common working procedure, little money and time for Western standards, and challenging remote places without the comforts of modern life.
For Bhutan a similar challenge lies ahead. Even though Bhutan has developed the admirable vision of Gross National Happiness, the implementation of sustainable growth clashes with the foreign influence of modernization. The fight for an equally important independent, ecological food production is essential and a decisive step for its future. A step that could be significant for the rest of the world. Both, filmmakers and country, mirroring each other’s paths, may overcome the challenges and thrive towards bigger goals if they re-define who they are while embracing change.

The Farmer and I – Irja von Bernstorff, Germany, 2016, 81’– Παρασκευή 16/6/17 @ Neapolis University, Pafos, 17:00