Bhutanese film ‘GANGNAM GIRLS’ wins best debut feature film award at the UK Asian Film Festival 2022

Bhutanese films can do it; Bhutanese stories will sell and there is no lack of talent in Bhutan. These are few observations and conclusions that can be drawn as another Bhutanese film, A Samuh original film, ‘Gangnam Girls’ hit the international limelight winning the Best Debut Feature Film Award at the 24th UK Asian Film Festival 2022 in London.
“These awards are very competitive and the list of Bhutanese films that have made to regional and international film festivals, winning awards says a lot about the potential of the Bhutanese film industry,” a local filmmaker said, adding the laurels are simply amazing as Bhutanese films are low budget and made in a country whose movie industry is perhaps the smallest. He further mentioned that just as Nepal’s “14 Peaks” made global headlines because of Netflix, Samuh, Bhutan’s first media tech company and OTT platform can do the same. “Films need a platform and Samuh is doing that. It is simply great,” he said.    
“Gangnam Girls” directed by Charmi Chheda, was selected as the closing film of the Festival, with the UK premiere happening at the British Film Institute on May 15. 
According to a press release from Samuh, the organizer of the festival said that there were some really amazing films this year running in the competition for the award but “Gangnam Girls” was a standout and the festival jury unanimously loved the film.   
Director Charmi Chheda’s debut feature film, “Gangnam Girls” charts the journey of four childhood friends, who go separate ways after a major fallout. A decade later, they reconnect for a house-warming event over a weekend where they discover that they still have a lot of pain and anger to deal with. 
The press release has quoted the director saying: “We never thought a small and simple film from Bhutan could travel and touch people’s hearts across continents.”  “The film was made with honesty as each talent on the film stayed true to their art and probably that’s what is helping the audience connect with the film.” She said that the award has encouraged her to tell more stories from Bhutan.
Cinematographer Jigme Tenzing, known for films like ‘Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom’ and ‘Hema Hema: Sing Me a Song While I wait’, is the director of photography of the film. The film also used field sound recorded by New Waves Studio. All the post-production works of the film, including sound design and color was locally done in Bhutan.  
“Gangnam Girls” is one of the few female centric films made in Bhutan. The film was produced by Samuh to tell stories surrounding women and to encourage Bhutanese films that feature women directors and women in the lead roles. The lead actors in the film are all women - Sadon Lhamo (from Hema Hema) and three newcomers namely Yangday La, Jurmey Choden, and Kelly Choden. 
The Chief Executive Officer of Samuh, Nyema Zam, who received the award along with Director Charmi Chheda in London, said that this film is a work of creative collaboration that brought together a team of dreamers, believers, and most importantly doers.
“At Samuh we believe our lives are made of stories and stories connect us all. We are thrilled that this story of four modern Bhutanese women connected deeply with an audience that didn’t speak our language and many who didn’t even know about Bhutan,” she said. “This is the power of stories and films. The award makes us believe that if we dare to dream, anything is possible.”
The UK Asian Film Festival, previously London Asian Film Festival, celebrates the best in films with a link to South Asia, South Asian culture and its many dimensions. The UK Asian Film Festival is the world’s longest running South Asian film festival outside India. 
The Festival is organised by Tongues on Fire - a not-for-profit organization founded in 1997 to celebrate the richness and vibrancy of South Asian culture, history, arts, storytelling, and self-expression. 
Recently ‘Gangnam Girls’ also premiered at the Nepal International Film Festival 2022 in Katmandu, Nepal. 
Founded in 2020, Samuh is Bhutan’s first media tech company and OTT platform that streams Bhutanese films, series, documentaries, short films, music videos and animation content. Currently, Samuh is accessed in more than 107 countries around the world.