Year: 2004
USA: Zeitgeist Films
Cast: Tsewang Dandup, Lhakpa Dorji, Sonam Kinga, Sonam Lhamo, Deki Yangzom
Director: Khyentse Norbu
Country: Bhutan
Language: Dzongkha (English subtitles)
USA: 108 mins
USA Release Date: 7 January 2005 (Limited Release - San Francisco)


In the Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan, nestled deep in the Himalayas, two men seek to escape their mundane lives. Dondup, an educated university graduate decides that he will be better off picking grapes in the US than working as a government officer in a remote rural village. Tashi, a restless farm youth studying magic, cannot bear the thought of a life consigned to his village. Through a trick of his brother, he is delivered into a dream world of seduction and intrigue.

The two men embark on parallel, if separate, journeys. Their yearning is a common one - for a better and different life. Dondup, delayed by the timeless pace of his village, is forced to hitchhike through the beautiful wild countryside of Bhutan to reach his goal. He shares the road with a monk, an apple seller, a papermaker and his beautiful young daughter, Sonam.

Throughout the journey the perceptive, yet mischievous monk relates the story of Tashi. It is a mystical fable of lust, jealousy and murder, that holds up a mirror to the restless Dondup, and his blossoming attraction to the innocent Sonam.

The cataclysmic conclusion of the monk's tale leaves Dondup with a dilemma - is the grass truly greener on the other side?

About the production

TRAVELLERS & MAGICIANS is Khyentse Norbu's follow-up to his internationally successful 1999 feature THE CUP (PHÖRPA). On September 29, 2002, the cameras started to roll on the first feature film to be made in the pristine beauty of the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan. More than 108 cast and crew came together - from Bhutan, Australia, Germany, India, Canada and the US - to work with award-winning filmmaker Khyentse Norbu on the first feature film to be made in his homeland. The writer/director of THE CUP matched experienced international film professionals with Bhutan's own budding filmmakers, giving them experience and the inspiration to produce future Bhutanese films. As in Khyentse Norbu's first film, THE CUP, no professional actors were used. The cast is drawn from across the country and include the chief regulator of the country's banking and financial institutions, a colonel in the King's Bodyguard, a monk trained in pure mathematics, a senior researcher with the government strategic planning think tank, employees of the local TV broadcasting corporation, a school principal, school children, farmers and local gomchen (householder practitioners and meditators).

TRAVELLERS & MAGICIANS was shot entirely in the Dzongkha dialect, the official language of Bhutan. During shooting of TRAVELLERS & MAGICIANS in the home of the casting director, the first official Dzongkha dictionary was created. As few of the cast spoke the 'new' national language, they had to be schooled by an on-set dialogue coach.

In keeping with the ways of the country, many major production decisions were determined by mo, an ancient method of divination performed by specially skilled lamas. The mo dictated principal cast, crew and even the first day of shooting.

Also in line with director Khyentse Norbu's Buddhist beliefs, special religious ceremonies known as pujas, were performed throughout the production to remove obstacles, quell local demons and increase auspiciousness.

TRAVELLERS & MAGICIANS was shot on Kodak colour film using a Super 16mm camera package of an Aaton XTR Prod and an Aaton A-Minima (for steadycam). The negative was processed in Bangkok's leading laboratory which enabled telecine rushes to be available in good turnaround time for viewing in Bhutan. Post Production was undertaken in Australia and was the country's first fully digitally graded feature film.