Samuel Goldwyn Films has acquired North American rights to Pawo Choyning Dorji’s lushly lensed Bhutanese drama “Lunana: A Yak in The Classroom,” one of the 15 films shortlisted for the Oscar’s international feature film race.
Represented by Berlin-based Films Boutique, “Lunana: A Yak in The Classroom” premiered at the BFI London Film Festival in 2019 and won the audience award at last year’s Palm Springs Film Festival. The critically acclaimed film 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 movie follows a young teacher who dreams of emigrating to Australia and instead finds himself assigned to a school in the most remote village in Northern Bhutan where there is no running water and electricity. While he wants to leave as soon as he arrives, the teacher bonds with local children who convince him to stay before the truly harsh conditions of winter hit.
The film was shot on location in one of the most remote human settlements in the world and the production had to rely entirely on solar batteries. Most of the actors are local yak herders who have never seen the world beyond their village.
Samuel Goldwyn Films will announce release plans shortly. The distribution company scored three nominations at last year’s Oscars for Thomas Vinterberg’s “Another Round” (which also earned Vinterberg a best director nomination) and the Tunisian film “The Man Who Sold His Skin.”
” ‘Lunana: A Yak in The Classroom’ is like a breath of fresh air during these dark and uncertain times,” said Peter Goldwyn, president of Samuel Goldwyn Films. “Pawo Choyning Dorji has made a film about what connects us as humans with so much heart that we are certain that it will connect with viewers.”
Samuel Goldwyn Films negotiated the deal with Julien Razafindranaly, head of sales at Films Boutique.
Choyning Dorji said, “With ‘Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom,’ I just wanted to share a story that was culturally, geographically and linguistically diverse from the rest of the world, but a story that touched upon the universal human value of trying to find where we belong.”
“I think during this pandemic, when we suffer so much from sickness, separation and anxiety, celebrating the values that unite us together as humanity does so much to help us,” added the filmmaker.
” ‘Lunana: A Yak in The Classroom’ was produced by Dorji, Steven Xiang, Stephane Lai and Jia Honglin. The movie was submitted last year by the Bhutanese government’s Ministry of Information and Communications but the entry was considered ineligible by the Academy because Bhutan did not have a proper official committee. A new committee society, including Khyentse Norbu, the director of Bhutan’s 1999 Oscar entry “The Cup,” was formed within the last year and unanimously selected “Lunana: A Yak in The Classroom.”