Lunana: A Yak In The Classroom
This visually ravishing film, one of a handful of films from Bhutan, is a spirited comic drama that injects fresh spirit into a familiar set-up.
Ugyen Dorji (Sherhab Dorji) is almost at the end of his five-year contract as a state teacher. It’s not been fun for him and he can’t wait to finish out his final year. But then he receives news of his last posting – the village of Lunana, sitting in the shadow of the Himalayas and a week-long trek from any major town. With a population of 56, it’s hardly the place Ugyen saw himself finishing out his job. So incensed is he with his posting, he fails to notice the splendour of the world around him as he travels to the village. Matters are worsened when he is shown his accommodation, realises he has no mobile reception and discovers that he has to share his classroom with a yak. However, Ugyen gradually comes to treasure Lunana, for the beauty of its surroundings and the people who populate it. But is this really a place he could call home?
The strength of writer-director Pawo Choyning Dorji’s understated film lies in the subtle observations of everyday life. There’s no romanticisation of the villagers’ life. It’s a daily struggle, but one that’s overcome through the close bonds of community and shared experience. It’s to Dorji’s credit that he takes a familiar fish-out-of-water narrative and invests it with such freshness that Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom never feels trite. And its comedy is as easygoing as Ugyen’s awakening is surprisingly moving.