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SING ME A SONG: A Live Q&A with Director Thomas Balmès

January 13, 2021, 1:00 P.M. PST

Live Online Webinar

Outside the Box [Office] and Participant Media
invite you to a live Q&A with

Director/Producer/DP Thomas Balmès
discussing his new documentary feature


Moderated by Dr. Michael Renov

1:00 P.M. PST on Wednesday, January 13th


You will receive a link to view the film
48 hours before the Q&A.

Open to USC Students, Faculty, Staff, Alumni,
and the General Public.

About Sing Me a Song

Sing Me a Song is a new documentary feature by acclaimed filmmaker Thomas Balmès (Babies, Happiness).

With Sing Me a Song, Balmès returns to one of the subjects of his award-winning Happiness. A nuanced portrait of a young man’s introduction to the world, the film follows now-teenaged Peyangki, who lives and studies in a picturesque monastery deep in the mountains of Bhutan. Several years have passed since TV and the Internet have been allowed into the remote country, and now the structured daily rituals of candle lighting and recitation of prayers compete with the powerful lure of smartphones. Privately, Peyangki is passionate about love songs and forms a relationship with a young singer on WeChat named Ugyen, from the capital city of Thimphu. Disinterested in study and often reprimanded by his masters, he sells medicinal mushrooms to make enough money to leave monastery life in search of “the one he dreams of night and day.” Unexpected and profound, Sing Me a Song provides an eye-opening lens on the effects of technology and challenges us to reassess our own perceptions of relatedness and self-worth in an age of unparalleled connectivity.

About the Guests

THOMAS BALMÈS (Director, Producer, Cinematographer)

Thomas Balmès has been working as an independent director and producer of influential nonfiction films since 1992.

His film Babies surveys one year in the life of four babies—in Mongolia, Namibia, San Francisco, and Tokyo—and was released theatrically worldwide in 2010 to much success. His next film Happiness was made in Bhutan, and introduced audiences to Peyangki and his village of Laya. Happiness premiered  at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Documentary World Cinema Cinematography Award.

His initial projects included studies of filmmakers James Ivory and Michelangelo Antonioni. Mr. Balmès’ first film as director was Bosnia Hotel, about U.N. Kenyan peacekeepers in Bosnia. This was  followed by Maharajah  Burger, Mad  Cows, and Holy Cows; the latter took up the Indian perspective on the mad cow crisis.

His The Gospel According to the Papuans, following the conversion to Christianity of a Papuan  Chief,  was honored with the Silver Spire Award at the 2000 San Francisco International Film Festival; he would return to Papua for Waiting for Jesus.

Mr. Balmès’ 2004 feature A Decent Factory centered on a Nokia executive who inspects a mobile  phone factory in China and was screened at more than 50 film festivals and received honors including a Europa Award. He next directed Damages, a.k.a. How Much Is Your Life Worth?, filmed at a Connecticut law firm specializing in personal injury, for worldwide broadcast. He initiated a series for national Japanese television (NHK), Tokyo Modern.

Mr. Balmès has conducted lectures and masterclasses in France; and abroad at Brown University, the Watson Institute, and the Lisbon International Film Festival.

DR. MICHAEL RENOV (Moderator, SCA Vice Dean for Academic Affairs)

Michael Renov, professor of Critical Studies and Vice Dean for Academic Affairs, is the author of Hollywood's Wartime Woman: Representation and Ideology and The Subject of Documentary, editor of Theorizing Documentary, and co-editor of Resolutions: Contemporary Video Practices, Collecting Visible EvidenceThe SAGE Handbook of Film Studies and Cinema’s Alchemist: The Films of Peter Forgacs.

In 1993, Renov co-founded Visible Evidence, a series of international and highly interdisciplinary documentary studies conferences that have, to date, been held on five continents. He is one of three general editors for the Visible Evidence book series at the University of Minnesota Press, which has published 27 volumes on various aspects of nonfiction media since 1997. In 2005, he co-programmed the 51st annual Robert Flaherty Seminar, a week-long gathering of documentary filmmakers, curators, and educators, creating 20 screening programs and filmmaker dialogues on the theme "Cinema and History."

In addition to curating documentary programs around the world, he has served as a jury member at documentary festivals including Sundance, Silverdocs, the Buenos Aires International Independent Film Festival, Brazil's It's All True, the International Environmental Festival of Film and Video, also in Brazil, and DocLisboa in Portugal. He has taught graduate seminars at the University of Stockholm, Tel Aviv University and Central European University in Budapest, Hungary and has led documentary workshops in Jordan for the Royal Film Commission and in Cyprus. Renov's teaching and research interests include documentary theory, autobiography in film and video, video art and activism, and representations of the Holocaust.

Contact Information

Name: Alessandro Ago