Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom
And now for something a bit different, an Oscar-nominated film from Bhutan. A young teacher in modern Bhutan, Ugyen, shirks his duties while planning to go to Australia to become a singer. As a reprimand, his superiors send him to the most remote school in the world, a glacial Himalayan village called Lunana, to complete his service. He finds himself exiled from his Westernized comforts after an arduous 8 day trek just to get there. There he finds no electricity, no textbooks, not even a blackboard. Though poor, the villagers extend a warm welcome to their new teacher, but he faces the daunting task of teaching the village children without any supplies. He wants to quit and go home, but he begins to learn of the hardship in the lives of the beautiful children he teaches, and begins to be transformed through the amazing spiritual strength of the villagers.
Donji’s screenplay finds an ideal balance of gentle humor and life-affirming drama. Amusing situations never outstay their welcome, and the film’s messages about the pursuit of happiness and valuing the people, creatures and places around you never sound preachy or didactic. Coupled with the glorious visuals of top cinematographer Jigme Tenzing, Donji has created a package that’s irresistibly entertaining and uplifting. Everyone in the cast drawn largely from Lunana itself — many of them had never seen a camera before — deserves praise for their natural and appealing performances. Special mention must be made of nine-year-old village girl Pem Zam, who plays the class captain and is the most delightfully eager student any teacher could ever wish for. The smiles and enthusiasm on the faces of Pem and her buddies is a marvelous advertisement for the philosophy of Gross National Happiness that has played an important role in national political and social policies since it was conceptualized in 1972 by Bhutan’s fourth Dragon King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck.
Click below for review, trailer and more information. For an article about the director of the film and why he made the film, click here
Venue: William Loveless Hall