Peter Prince’s Bhutan film screens at library

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A new documentary by a Salt Spring Island filmmaker will be premiering at the library on June 13 at 7 p.m.

Called Bhutan: The Kind Kingdom, it was filmed and directed by Peter Prince. It is a look into the kingdom, its culture, environmentalism and its relationship to the natural world. It also celebrates at the black necked crane, which is indigenous to Bhutan, and the efforts to save the endangered bird’s habitat.

“I just wanted to make a film that highlighted the beauty of Bhutan, but also to share their message,” Prince said. “They’re like a model to the rest of the world in terms of their policies towards the environment.”

Prince was inspired to make the film by a series of Robert Bateman paintings. There are only 15 species of crane in the world, and Bateman has done a painting of each one.

“He came and brought a delegation of two members from the [Bhutanese] Royal Society for the Protection of Nature and Dr. George Archibald from the International Crane Foundation to ArtSpring. I made a little video for them at the time and he encouraged me to go there and make a film about it,” Prince said.

Prince was in the country in 2003 when he shot most of the footage. Some of the footage also came from various agencies and organizations involved in the conservation effort.

“Bhutan is like a cinematographer’s dream. It’s so beautiful,” he said.

Bhutan is a country in the Himalayas. It is a Buddhist kingdom that promotes happiness amongst its citizens, rather than monetary wealth. The kingdom is the only country in the world that measures its wealth by using the Gross National Happiness Index. Its borders weren’t opened to tourism until 1974, and only a small number of foreign visitors are allowed in per year.

“It’s an incredible vision, which is not something that every country would be able to emulate,” Prince said. “Bhutan is like an island in a sea of millions or billions of people. It is sandwiched between China and India, and somehow they’ve been able to maintain their culture and their ways of doing things.”

Prince says that Salt Spring Island has a lot in common with Bhutan. The Bhutanese revere nature and their connection to the land, which is a lesson he thinks should be passed on.

“They’re inclined to seeing the spiritual link between humans and nature,” Prince said. “They have a richness in memories that goes back centuries.”

The black necked crane in particular is important to Bhutanese culture. The birds spend the summers high in the mountain ranges and come down to winter in the lower elevations of the Phobjikha Valley in central Bhutan.

The Bhutanese people are very spiritual and believe that the cranes are reincarnates of their ancestors. When the cranes return to the valleys it is considered a blessing and celebrations take place throughout the country. Prince’s film opens with a scene of Buddhist lamas blessing the return of the cranes.

“It’s a mantra that gives thanks to the cranes and the blessings that they bestow on the land,” Prince said. “They believe that the cranes are a good omen and are a symbol of peace.”

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