This mild, sweet-natured film is the debut function from Bhutan-born and US-educated film-maker Pawo Choyning Dorji: final yr it grew to become the primary Bhutanese movie to get an Oscar nomination for finest worldwide function (dropping out to Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car). Regardless of these uncommon credentials, Lunana: A Yak within the Classroom runs on fairly acquainted, even conventional strains, though its likability and humour – and nearly childlike religion within the energy of singing to beat melancholy and adversity – means you’ll end up smiling alongside.
Ugyen (Sherab Dorji) is a younger man within the Bhutanese capital, Thimphu; since his dad and mom’ demise, he lives together with his formidable grandmother who’s exasperated at his aimlessness and shiftlessness. He’s 4 years right into a five-year trainer coaching course, however solely needs to hang around together with his girlfriend and different associates, and nurtures a dream to exit to Australia and make it as a singer. However a stern authorities official informs him that he should do a season instructing on the village faculty of Lunana within the nation’s mountainous north-west. It’s essentially the most distant faculty wherever on this planet, she tells him, with lipsmacking satisfaction. Ugyen whines that he has an “altitude drawback”. Extra like an perspective drawback, snaps the official. Prefer it or not, he’s going.
So our pampered, resentful hero finds that his big-city pop-music goals have to be placed on maintain. After a protracted and uncomfortable bus journey, Ugyen is met by heartbreakingly well mannered and respectful village representatives and advised that the remainder of the journey shall be on foot: a pleasant stroll alongside a river, they guarantee him. It’s, in fact, a punishing hike that goes on for ever, principally uphill, in the middle of which he ponders the progressive disappearance of snow and ice on the mountain peaks, owing to local weather change. However this uphill stroll is a parable for humility and endurance.
And inevitably, after a rocky begin, and performing on some degree as a single samurai to struggle for the villagers in opposition to the marauding forces of ignorance, Ugyen grows to like all of them, and even, maybe, a sure younger girl within the village: Saldon (Kelden Lhamo Gurung) who sings by herself within the countryside. Ugyen needs to mild fires to heat himself and is cheerfully advised that the way in which to do that is to mild the yak dung, of which there’s an excellent deal. The village elders even present him together with his personal yak within the classroom for vital materials, in addition to normal morale-raising.
It’s, maybe, a film machine-tooled for audiences exterior Bhutan and regardless of early speak of the kids being educated for a life past what they might historically count on, we don’t get that a lot dialogue of how issues would possibly change for them or for the village. But there’s something profitable on this calm, walking-pace drama – and the panorama is superb.