Do you know someone who always seems happy? Ever wonder how they stay that way?
A documentary opening this week in Tucson examines the lives of people around the world who seem extremely happy, despite some circumstances that might leave other people scratching their head and wondering “why?”
“Happy” takes viewers from the bayou of Louisiana to the desert of Namibia, and from the beaches of Brazil to the villages of Okinawa. Director Roko Belic traveled to 14 countries on his journey to explore the secrets of happiness.
The 75-minute documentary came to Tucson earlier this year as part of the Arizona International Film Festival. In fact, “Happy” was one of several films to screen at the DesertView Theater in SaddleBrooke’s DesertView Performing Arts Center as part of the festival’s touring program.
It is scheduled for a one-week run at The Loft Cinema, Tucson’s popular indie house, from Aug. 26 to Sept. 2. A highlight of the screenings will be a special question and answer session with Belic after the screenings on Aug. 27 and Aug. 28.
“Happy” has received a number of awards at film festivals around the globe. In addition to receiving the Audience Choice Award for Favorite Feature at the Arizona International Film Festival, it was named Best Documentary Feature at the Mexico Film Festival, received the Audience Award at both the Mendocino Film Festival and Mountainfilm in Telluride and named Best Documentary at the Rincon Film Festival, where it also received the Director’s Choice Award.
The seed for the film was planted in 2005, when film director Tom Shadyac (“Liar, Liar,” “Bruce Almighty”) handed Belic a newspaper article in which the United States was ranked 23rd on a list of the world’s happiest countries. Shadyac wanted to know why the U.S. ranked so low and so he asked Belic to lead the global exploration of happiness research.
The film is both educational and entertaining. While the research sometimes borders on clinical (the animated graphics, with their charts and numbers, at times felt like classroom visuals), the people interviewed and the insights into their lives are engrossing and fascinating.
Few images are as powerful as the juxtaposition of Manoj Singh, a rickshaw driver in India, expressing his appreciation for how well he and his family live while pictured at his home, what some in the West might consider a hovel. But for Singh, being with his healthy family, making an honest living, and spending time with his many neighbors and friends are the ingredients in his recipe for success, and, yes, for happiness.
If you go
What: Q&A with Roko Belic, director of “Happy”
When: Aug. 27-28, after the documentary screens
Where: The Loft Cinema, 3233 E. Speedway Blvd.
“Happy” screens Aug. 26-Sept. 2 at The Loft. For more information, visit www.loftcinema.com.