Bhutan’s Oscar Nominated Film Has Its Moments.

Lunana

The Kingdom of Bhutan.

“Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom” has its moments. It is set in the kingdom of Bhutan, a landlocked country situated on the slopes of the Himalayas, just east of Nepal. The country’s official religion is Buddhism and the government prides itself on education for all its citizens, no matter how remote their location.

Lunana

A teacher who does not want to teach.

Enter Ugyen (Sherab Dorji) has just qualified as a schoolteacher. However, he does not want to teach and shows zero interest in finding a position, He wants to emigrate to Australia and become a rock singer. Eventually the government calls his bluff and sends him to the remote village of Lunana. With a population of fifty-six and situated high in the mountains, it may actually, be the world’s highest school.

Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom.

The Capital City: Thimphu.

After a brief establishing shot of Lunana, the film moves to the capital Thimphu. There, Ugyen, a lover of the finer things in life, and who is never without his headphones, spends his last few nights of freedom, accompanied by his guitar, in the city’s nightclubs. The Film’s director Pawo Choyning Dorji gets a nice urban rhythm going. In fact, the city scenes with their high-tech computers and cell phones are more satisfying and less cliched than the rural scenes that follow.

Lunana: A yak in the Classroom.

The Spectacular Scenery of a Nat Geo Special.

Indeed, what comes next is like a Nat Geo special with spectacular scenery, as we hike our way up into the Himalayas. Losing the headphones when the batteries run out, Ugyen hears the sounds of nature for what seems like the first time. And he begins to acclimatize to his new surroundings quite well even before he is greeted, and treated like a celebrity by the locals who, on hearing of his impending arrival, have taken a stroll in his direction.

Lunana

The school is a shack with a yak!

Yes, of course, the school is nothing more than a shack, but it’s a shack with a Yak named Norbu which in Dzongkha (the country’s native language) means “wish-fulfilling jewel”. Norbu, lucky guy, is treated as a sacred being spending winters indoors because of the extreme cold. It’s not long before Ugyen is serenading him on his guitar!

Lunana" A yak in the Classroom.

Folk Songs

Although the movie’s basic dynamic is whether Ugyen will stay or not, there is never any doubt that he will. He even bonds with a yak herder named Saldon (Kelden Lkamo Gurung). When they sit together on the mountain slopes above the village, she teaches him folksongs that replace/complement the rock songs he sang in his previous existence, back in Thimphu.

Dwarfed by its fellow nominees!

Although it is dwarfed by its fellow Best International Film nominees (“Drive My Car”, “Flee”,The Hand of God” and “The Worst Person in the World”), “Lunana” is definitely watchable, with the occasional enchanting moment.

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