The Happiest Place follows filmmaker Ben Henretig’s three-year quest to uncover what’s getting in the way of our individual and collective well-being - a journey that takes him to the so-called happiest place on earth, the Kingdom of Bhutan.
After years traveling the world to document the creative solutions emerging to address some of the world’s most pressing challenges, Ben begins to ask the question: why is it that in an age of incredible technological and material growth, we’re facing unprecedented social and environmental crisis? When, nearing the point of burnout, Ben receives a call asking him to join a historic expedition to document Gross National Happiness in one of the world’s last remaining Shangri-las - Bhutan - he embarks on a life-changing journey to explore an alternative approach to development.
Granted unprecedented access to never-before-filmed parts of Bhutan, we’re taken on an engrossing journey into the colors and rituals of this isolated Kingdom as voices from Bhutan, including the current Prime Minister, unravel the the philosophy behind Bhutan’s policy of Gross National Happiness - and its relevance in a world that is struggling to find balance.
Throughout the film, Ben’s own journey to find authentic happiness serves as a mirror reflecting the chronic challenges we face in the West. Ben’s story is the story of most Americans - the disintegration of community and emotional support and the relentless pace of life that results in a difficulty in balancing material ambition and gain with spiritual and personal connection.
In the years since Bhutan became the last country in the world to legalize television in the 90s, youth violence, gang activity, drug use, and domestic violence, all of which were previously almost non-existant, have all risen significantly. When Ben reaches Bhutan’s capital city, Thimphu, he’s surprised to discover country in transition, poised precariously between the ancient and the modern. Bhutan’s fragile experiment is receiving its first true test - and casting a mirror on our own consumerist culture in the West.
As Ben leaves the city and heads East, it’s as if he’s traveling back in time, as he begins to glimpse the factors that, more than any other, may be the key to their happiness: the strong sense of purpose and belonging at the heart of Gross National Happiness. The voices of visionary economists and happiness researchers confirm: to be authentically happy, we need to feel like we’re a part of something bigger than ourselves.
When Ben has the opportunity to meet with a decorated Buddhist master who, for almost a decade, has been building a hidden wonder of the world in the remote reaches of Bhutan, he receives his ultimate lesson. We want to transcend our individual worries and concerns, do work that has a higher purpose, and connect deeply with others and with the natural world.
Offering deeply reflective and at times personal meditations on the individual and collective challenges we face in finding authentic happiness, The Happiest Place challenges each one of us to ask how can we live lives that align with our values - and find authentic happiness?