As the slowest walker in Hong Kong, I used to watch the city’s black-suited bankers hurrying past me to their plush offices – so busy building fortunes, but often looking and sounding unhappy, despite showy champagne lifestyles. The city’s Filipino domestic workers also worked hard; but each Sunday they spent their one precious day off just talking, laughing and eating together while sitting on roads closed to traffic. Could we learn something important from the Filipinos’ spirit? While visiting Manila, friends mentioned a charity supporting people living on Smokey Mountain, the city’s vast rubbish dump. Shocked on seeing photos of humans enduring such conditions, I offered to make a film that might help the charity. Squelching around Smokey Mountain’s garbage, mud (and worse) in heavy rains while filming families living and working there, I was astonished – and ultimately inspired – by their strength in the face of extreme poverty, lethal diseases and early death. By combining their love of family, friendships and faith with music, dancing and humour, Smokey Mountaineers didn’t just conquer daunting peaks of endurance – they soared much higher, with courage, grace and dignity. Maybe they knew more than most about the secrets of happiness?