For India-born Bhutanese filmmaker Pawo Choyning Dorji, the craft of weaving a story is inspired by his early influences of growing up in the quaint Himalayan nation. The director who was training to be a monk initially stumbled upon cinema when life and the world around him changed forever. As a live testament to this, his directorial debut is already headed towards the Oscars.
Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom is a coming-of-age tale about a young teacher who sets out on a journey to teach children in one of the remotest high-altitude schools in the world located in Lunana, Bhutan. Stripped off even the most basic amenities, the story maps the protagonist Ugyen’s transformation while celebrating togetherness, community, and self-discovery.
The 109-minute long feature film initially made its rounds around film festival circuits upon its release in 2019. Dorji’s instincts urged him to take the plunge and turn in the film for a nod from the panelists at the Oscar awards when an unexpected series of events pushed the film into the forefront of this year’s nominations from South Asia.
The film is an emphatic reflection of life and a human being’s need to seek happiness. As the happiest nation in the world, Bhutan’s approach to the emotion has been packaged in a beautiful and nuanced narrative, complemented by Dorji’s finesse.
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