The Next Guardian

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The Next Guardian

Directed by Arun Bhattarai, Dorottya Zurbo

  • Hungary, Bhutan 2017; 74 min
  • Original version: Dzonghka
  • Genre: Documentary


In a remote village in the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, Gyembo (16) and Tashi (15) aimlessly roam while their father meticulously polishes the ancient relics inside the altar of their family monastery. This family has been taking care of the monastery from one generation to the next for thousands of years. Following tradition, the father wants his transgender son Gyembo to carry on the family heritage but he has other desires just like his sister. The film through bittersweet micro-situations takes us inside a Bhutanese family where the contrasting dreams of two generations are caught in a time clash.

Director's Statement

We, Arun Bhattarai (director, Bhutan) and Dorottya Zurbó (co-director, Hungary) are graduates from DocNomads Joint Masters in Lisbon, Budapest and Brussels where we worked on many documentary projects together dealing with the topics of adolescence, migration and multiculturalism. Our different cultural backgrounds helped us approach these subjects with more sensitivity and formal experiments. This multicultural dialogue between us not only strengthened our interest in documentary but helped us understand where we come from and how we can benefit from each other’s different perspectives in artistic works. That is why we decided to work on our first feature-length documentary The Next Guardian together, creating the basis for a unique international co-production between Hungary and Bhutan.

Right after our graduation we started searching for inspiration for a possible documentary project together in Bhutan. We wanted to find a story that reflects the cross-roads between traditional and Western values and the beginning of modernisation in the country. We thought this contrast that shapes the ethical and moral values and physical landscape of the country is an essential life experience of many Bhutanese youth growing up from the late 80’s. Arun is part of one of the first generations who experienced the fast changing world around him. He grew up in a remote village in the Southern part of Bhutan never seeing a television or automobile until his teenage years. When he first came to Europe to study filmmaking he experienced cultural shock in terms of welfare, rhythm of life and quality of relationships. Returning to Bhutan with this experience made him more sensitive towards the changing values and the generation gap between parents and youth that he experienced under his own skin. He could see this transition from a different perspective which we wanted to express in this story. During our research, first we got to know Tashi, the youngest daughter of the family who was participating in the selection camp of the newly established National Women’s football team. We immediately felt connected to Tashi because we noticed her strong desire to express her boyish identity. Then when we visited her family, we instantly got close to them because of their warm and open dynamics. When we heard Tashi’s father refer to Tashi as a ‘he’ we felt that we found something really special. We found a family in a traditional part of the world who is trying to find ways to understand the changing sexuality of their teenager child, with love and acceptance through their Buddhist interpretation of life. However in contrast to this acceptance we found that there is a bigger conflict within the family. It was related to the inheritance of the monastery and the family heritage; this story resonated the country’s transitional state and could have a wider focus through the personal journey of two siblings. That is why we decided to put the inheritance of the monastery in the centre of our story that represents the microcosm of a culture on the verge of change. It gave us a possibility to talk about more universal issues like family, generational conflict, father-children relationship and identity in the archaic society of the last Buddhist kingdom.

In our documentaries we like to capture micro-moments with love, humour and irony. The intimate observational camera lets us focus on the small details and contrasts between the generations and the drama can unfold in a more subtle way which is more close to the nature of the Bhutanese people and their microcosm. We feel our film tells a very local story therefore provides an exclusive access for the foreign audience, a glimpse of contemporary Bhutanese society. Through the personal journey of the siblings it becomes a modern tale of a forgotten part of the globe that you can rarely find in our uniformalised and globalized world any more.



    Laetitia Schoofs 

International Sales


    Aleksandar Govedarica, Jasmina Vignjevic