Agent of Happiness 2024

Directed by Arun Bhattarai, Dorottya Zurbó Journeys

“Agent of happiness” Amber sets out on a cross-country road trip surveying the satisfaction of the Bhutanese public, as this crowd-pleasing doco questions whether the Himalayan country really is the happiest place on Earth.

Aug 18

Hollywood Avondale

Bhutan In Dzongkha, English and Nepali with English subtitles
94 minutes Colour / DCP
documentary film exempt from NZ Classification labelling requirements


Noémi Veronika Szakonyi, Máté Artur Vincze, Arun Bhattarai


Arun Bhattarai


Péter Sass


Ádám Balázs


Amber Kumar Gurung, Sarita Chettri, Guna Raj Kuikel


Sundance, CPH:DOX, Hot Docs, San Francisco, Sydney 2024


Best Documentary and Audience Award, San Francisco International Film Festival 2024


Amber is a government official traversing the mountains of Bhutan, seeking to determine the gross national happiness of the small Buddhist kingdom. Filling out paperwork in rural farmhouses and mountainous shantytowns, the task is supposed to inform policy and parliamentary decision-making, to help the country prosper. 

Regarded by their own government as the happiest country in the world, after a few minutes in the car with Amber and his coworker, Guna (at times acting as a proxy therapist), you come to realise that not everything is fun and games for the so-called “agent of happiness”. He longs for marriage, declaring his intentions to prospective companion Sarita early in the piece. But as anyone who’s ever downloaded a dating app will know, it’s never that simple. 

For some, the number of livestock they own is directly proportional to their degree of contentment on the Gross National Happiness Index. Yet for others, such as Dechan, a transwoman whose mother struggles to accept her true identity, a more worrisome picture is painted by her responses to the questionnaire. Encapsulating a vast range of the human experience, Bhattarai and Zurbó play with juxtaposition, drawn-out close-ups of wistful citizens interspersed with breathtaking vistas of the Bhutanese countryside. One hundred and forty-eight questions across nine categories are asked of each citizen, but there’s one question missing that the filmmakers dare to ask… “Are you really happy?” — Matt Bloomfield 

“With numerous shots of smartphones, framed as windows to desire, and scenes of casual conversation that slowly reveal lingering discontentment, Agent of Happiness uses meaningful visual contrast to scrutinize Bhutan’s narrative about itself. It re-injects a vibrant sense of nuance into an exercise that, though nominally geared toward gauging humanity, too often reduces it to a number. The result is both calming and humanizing, as though it were an artistic embodiment of the very contentment the Kingdom boasts.” — Siddhant Adlakha, Variety