'Agent of Happiness' will open DocsBarcelona 2024 on May 2nd at the Sala Phenomena

The documentary, by Arun Bhattarai and Dorottya Zurbó and premiered at Sundance, explores (and questions) the Gross National Happiness index in Bhutan


Agent of Happiness, by Arun Bhattarai and Dorottya Zurbó, will open the 27th edition of the Barcelona International Documentary Film Festival DocsBarcelona on May 2 at the Sala Phenomena. The Hungarian-Bhutan co-production, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, will be the first of the forty titles that the festival will screen until May 12 at the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB) and the Renoir Floridablanca Cinemas, the latter, new venue for the event.

The happiest country on Earth

The Kingdom of Bhutan, located on the southern slopes of the Himalayas, is said to be the happiest country on Earth. DocsBarcelona 2024's opening documentary follows the routine of Amber, one of seventy-five government workers hired to measure people's happiness on a mathematical scale.The calculation of the country's Gross National Happiness is based on material aspects, such as the number of cows, goats or tractors someone owns, and also on subjective and much more abstract criteria: Do you trust your neighbors? How is your work-life balance? What is your sense of karma?

But the documentary not only details the lives of its interviewees, but also that of the agent himself. In his 40s, Amber continues to live with his elderly mother and is a hopeless romantic who dreams of finding love: a happiness agent in search of his own happiness. So we embark with him on a cross-country road trip, meeting citizens from all walks of life, who remind us of the fragility and beauty of our own happiness.

Agent of Happiness is the second feature film by Arun Bhattarai, one of Bhutan's few independent documentary filmmakers, and Dorottya Zurbó, Hungarian filmmaker, also director of Easy Lessons, a feature documentary about a young Somali refugee trying to adapt in Hungary, premiered at the Locarno Film Festival's Critics' Week 2018. The two directors' first film, The Next Guardian, explores an intimate family story also set in Bhutan, and premiered at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) in 2017. Agent of Happiness will be screened at DocsBarcelona distributed by Filmin.

"A solid reflection on happiness and its elusive condition"

The artistic director of DocsBarcelona, Anna Petrus, pointed out that Agent of Happiness "begins with a comedic tone that, little by little, transforms into a solid reflection on happiness and its elusive condition. The artistic director also added that "with a great sensitivity for the beauty of landscapes and faces, Arun Bhattara and Dorottya Zurbó push us to question the expectations we have of our lives and how these often, ironically, contribute to dwarf the moments of happiness we find along the way".

The complete DocsBarcelona program, which in this 27th edition will recognize French filmmakers Raymond Depardon and Claudine Nougaret with the Honorary DocsBarcelona Award, will be announced in mid-April.