March 13, 2023

‘Masters of Joy’ Documentary Will Premiere on March 20

Award-winning film shares five children from five countries giving their take on happiness.

Libna Stevens, Inter-American Division News
Five-year-old Iker of San Juan Chamula, Chiapas, Mexico, sits by his family’s sheep. Iker was one of five children from five different countries featured in the Masters of Joy documentary. [Photo: Hope Media Chiapas]

A new documentary film called Masters of Joy shows the life of five children from five different countries and how they understand happiness.

The film will premiere on March 20 through Hope Channel Inter-America and other Hope media channels around the world as part of the cross-media Happiness Project by the Global Adventist Internet Network (GAiN) in Europe. The film has been recently awarded the Best Feature Documentary by the Boden International Film Festival in Sweden.

Filmed in Nepal, Mexico, Bolivia, the United States, and Iceland, the Masters of Joy documentary came about within the Happiness Project initiative and arose from the desire to show happiness through the eyes of a child, Lizbeth Elejalde, program director of Hope Channel Inter-America, said.

Elejalde, who wrote, directed, and edited Masters of Joy, said she was inspired by children’s ability to be happy no matter where they are. “I hope this documentary lets viewers see that for children, far from material things, happiness is a state of mind,” she said.

The 37-minute documentary project took 10 months to complete and included fine-tuning the script, inviting other media centers to be part of the project, and choosing each character, as well as spending time in post-production, Elejalde said. Producers included Michael Moyer, who filmed in Tennessee, United States; Binod Dahar Kumal, who filmed in Nepal; Evelyn Velinova, who filmed in Bolivia; Uriel Castellanos, who filmed in Chiapas, Mexico; and Griselda Rosales, who filmed in Iceland.

“It’s amazing to see how this collaborative work has allowed us to enrich the content that we create, without elevating costs, and opened the door for opportunities for local production teams in different parts of the world,” Elejalde said.

Scheduled for full release on the International Day of Happiness (as designated by the United Nations) on March 20, Masters of Joy had a special premiere in Chiapas, Mexico, on February 19 during the Adventist Church’s GAiN Chiapas event. More than 1,500 cheered on Iker, the five-year-old boy from San Juan Chamula, Chiapas, who, along with his parents, was a special guest during the viewing of the film.

Previously, a soft launch of the film was viewed in Bucharest, Romania, during the GAiN Europe event in October 2022.

“I’m so excited to see the final product after seeing the idea on paper,” Adrián Duré, network projects coordinator and producer at Hope Media Europe, said. When the idea of the project was presented to him, Duré saw great potential because he knew children, regardless of culture, context, and circumstances, would show their natural and innocent way, as happy as they are, and how they understand happiness.

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The film is a clear example of a great collaboration in which each team contributes, each culture has its space, values are highlighted, and unity and a common objective bring about teamwork, Duré explained.

Masters of Joy is one of the pillars of the cross-media Happiness Project, since it offers a production that covers a specific target, includes children, and highlights and promotes the value of family,” Duré said. The film is a complement to, and perhaps the other extreme of, the “700 Years of Happiness” series, which aims to integrate the elderly in the overall project, he added. “Both documentary productions complement each other very well, giving visibility and prominence to two generations: children and the elderly.”

Abel Márquez, executive producer of Hope Channel Inter-America, which sponsored the production of Masters of Joy, said he is pleased with the great opportunity Hope Channel Inter-America had to participate in a global project.

“This collaboration helps us explore techniques that we had not explored before, such as documentary and cinematography, and allows us to have access to a greater number of programs we could not have by ourselves,” Márquez said. “The fact that this production has been recognized by a film festival is an opportunity for the documentary to reach a wider audience, which means more people will be inspired by the empathy of the stories and the theme of happiness,” he added.

Masters of Joy will be launched in English and Spanish on Hope Channel Inter-America on March 20. The film will also become available in French.

The original version of this story was posted on the Inter-American Division news site.