A documentary examining Bhutan, the tiny Himalayan kingdom that sets Gross National Happiness as a development goal instead of Gross Domestic Product, has become the top-funded active film on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter.
"The Happiest Place," directed by Palo Alto-based independent filmmaker Ben Henretig, has earned more than $83,000 — 182 percent of the original $45,000 goal — and 725 supporters, and features an original score by singer Imogen Heap, who is in the movie.
The film chronicles the border-to-border trek — 485 miles by foot and bicycle — of a group of four endurance athletes. Along the way, the country's misty mountain vistas and simplified, spiritual way of life are highlighted.
Bhutan is the last remaining Buddhist kingdom, with a god-king, and a political philosophy to put the happiness of the people above the wealth. The isolated country has long limited the passage of tourists and boasts a single airplane in its fleet.
However, the country drew some criticism from human rights groups after it forced out the Hindu, Nepali-speaking minority living in its southern region. Tens of thousands have languished in U.N.-administered refugee camps in neighboring Nepal since the early 1990s.
"With the election and concern over the economy, there are lots of people eager to find a way forward that doesn't compromise their values — and Bhutan has been exploring this territory with Gross National Happiness for over 40 years," Henretig said in a statement.
The Motion Picture Association of Bhutan, the Bhutan Olympic Committee as well as the Royal Government of Bhutan have fully supported the film, granting almost two months of filming in country, more than has been granted to any other American filmmaker.