Friday, February 24, 2017

To Be Happy

Happy is the story of everyone. Throughout the documentary various people from different circumstances and parts of the world are interviewed and asked the ever important question “Are you happy?”. In a New York Times article released in 2005 “A New Measure of Well-Being from a Happy Little Kingdom” the author Andrew C. Revkin states that the United States is ranked as the 23rd happiest country. This prompted Happy director Roko Belic to produce, write and direct this film. He, alongside his brother Adrian Belic, filmed Happy. The film aims to urge the audience to reconsider what they can do to achieve happiness. Often the film states that people should think of happiness as they do any other skill, and realize that they need to learn it. The two brothers did not have a large budget or a major studio backing them and at times looked to the website Kickstarter to keep the project afloat. This allows them to release their true feelings without a studio’s input.

The lack of a studio, while ideal in some regards, has drawbacks. One drawback is the lack of easy availability to play the film in movie theaters. The movie only played in a select group of theaters in the US at its release on April 9th, 2011. Despite this, the movie has gone on to be released in Japan and Belgium as well as on Netflix. The film was originally not met with significant acclaim. However, since its debut on Netflix the documentary has achieved a following. It is ranked on many bloggers “best documentaries on Netflix lists” and has 76316 likes on Facebook. They have also won awards at film festivals across the world.

Happy’s website begs one to “join us for an incredible journey…” and that it certainly does. The film interviews a multitude of people, a rickshaw driver in India, a crawfish eating man in Louisiana, an aging surfer, a woman in Calcutta, a widow in Japan and a centennial in Okinawa. Each has a different story and a vastly different life. The rickshaw driver speaks about the rude patrons he encounters, but that he doesn't mind because at least running with them will dry his clothes when it is raining. The widow in Japan talks about how forlorn and distant her husband became at the end of his life. In contrast the surfer speaks about how one must seek his dreams, for him that is surfing, but for his daughter that is to become an economist. Some of the people interview have easy lives, some struggle for a meal more than rice and salt, some have husbands who died from stress, and some are 106. There are no similarities one could draw between them, except for the fact that they all readily proclaim themselves to be happy. 

In between cuts of people explaining their lives, academics in the field of phycology educate the reader as to what truly makes a person happy. The most surprising statistic being how much of happiness is determined by oneself. The psychologists are professors at the University of Illinois, University California Riverside and the University of Wisconsin. Each believes in research which states that 10% of human happiness comes from ones circumstances, 50% comes from ones genetics and that 40% comes from ones attitude and choices. That 40% humans have control over and that can vastly change a persons life. 

Each person interviewed in Happy tells a bit of the story. They convince the audience through their own struggles that if they can be happy you can too. When watching this film I cried. This movie has a very simple target, everyone. While, a majority of young people watch this film I believe that all should. It deserves five stars; it makes one rethink his or her outlook and aim to be as Roko Belvic says “better citizens of the world”.

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