Sing Me a Song
Ten years ago, director and documentary maker Thomas Balmès visited the remote village of Laya, hidden deep in the mountains of the Bhutan nation. His documentary Happiness focused on the introduction of electricity to the village, framed through the eyes of seven year-old Peyangki, who was studying to become a monk. Ten years later, the pair are reunited for Sing Me a Song. Now 17 and on the cusp of adulthood, much of Peyangki’s life is the same – he is still studying, he visits his family. Only one thing is different: he has a mobile phone in his hand.
Sing Me a Song, focuses on the influence of technology on young people, and the subsequent threat it poses to tradition. The fact that real change has happened here is evident – we see it as a group of young monks recite prayers with their phones in their hands, or as Peyanki develops a relationship with a woman he met online. As their relationship develops, he begins to question leaving the monastery to start a new life. The result is a quietly captivating glimpse into a changing world, one that will probably never be the same again. This begs the question: was the change worth it?
The true strength in the documentary lies in the cinematography, with a series of simply spectacular shots of the surrounding countryside. Here, the natural world creates a profound and stunning contest to the buzzing of mobile phones and video calls. Balmès’ own critical thoughts on technology seem rife, though it is important to note that it has, in some ways, benefited the people of Lama.
The documentary appears to blur the lines between truth and fiction; indeed it is not immediately clear that it is a documentary, and not a scripted piece. This is largely due to Balmès’ artistic vision and clever cinematography, though it seems certain scenes may have involved an element of direction. Nevertheless, there is honesty and innocence behind every word, making for an intriguing and thought-provoking watch.
Sing Me a Song is released in select cinemas on 1st January 2021.
Watch the trailer for Sing Me a Song here: