“Lunana: A Yak In The Classroom” is the second Oscar entry from Bhutan, a landlocked country in South Asia. The first official Bhutanese Oscar submission was in 1999 with Khyentse Norbu’s “The Cup,” a Tibetan-language drama.
The selection of “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom” was confirmed by the Ministry of Information and Communications of the Royal Government of Bhutan on Tuesday.
“Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom,” which was released in Bhutan on Feb. 2, shot on solar-charged batteries, on location at the world’s most remote school in the Himalayan glaciers.
The film follows the journey of a teacher, Ugyen, who is sent to Lunana in northern Bhutan for his final year of training. The high altitude and the lack of amenities make Ugyen want to leave as soon as he arrives. The local children try to win him over with a warm welcome but they don’t have much time as the harsh winter is about to arrive in the glacial parts of the Himalaya.
“Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom” is handled in international markets by Berlin-based Films Boutique and has played at several festivals, including Busan, London and Palm Springs, where it won the Audience Award this year.
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“Bhutan is a small mountainous country, with only a few commercial cinemas in the city with all the screenings sold out. We had people travel all the way from remote parts of the country, some journeying three days to come and watch the movie,” said Choyning Dorji.
“On our last day of screening we had just so many people wanting to get in that we had put foldable chairs out in the aisles!” said Choyning Dorji. The filmmaker said he “had plans to screen [the movie] longer but had to cut it short because of COVID-19 restrictions.”
Commenting on the last Oscar entry from Bhutan, “The Cup,” Choyning Dorji said, “[Director] Khyentse Norbu is a Buddhist Lama, and he is my spiritual teacher but also the person who first introduced me to film making.”
“Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom” stars Sherab Dorji, Ugyen Norbu Lhendup and Kelden Lhamo Gurung.