Pawo’s Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom enters 2021 Oscars

Chhimi Dema 

Bhutanese film Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom has officially entered the 2021 Oscars.

This is the second-ever Bhutanese film to enter for Oscar nomination, the first being Dzongsar Khyentse’s The Cup (1999).

Director/producer/writer Pawo Choyning Dorji was also the producer of Dzongsar Khyentse’s Hema Hema: Sing Me a Song While I Wait.

Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom was shot in Lunana, Gasa, on solar-charged batteries.

“The entry into the Oscars was a step for the Bhutanese film industry of the country. It also shows the government’s help towards the growth of the industry,” said Pawo Choyning Dorji.

The film was screened in 13 countries—the USA, the UK, Ireland, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands, Egypt, South Korea, Taiwan, China, Indonesia, India, and Japan.

The film won five awards—Audience Choice Award for Best Feature Film and Best of the Fest Award at the 2020 Palm Springs International Film Festival, the Lessinia d’oro Prize for Best Film at the 26th Film Festival Della Lessinia in Verona, Italy, the Microcosmos Jury Award for Best Film at the Film Festival Della Lessinia, and the Best Feature Film at the CineAsia Film Festival in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

The film follows a schoolteacher, Ugyen, who wants to leave for Australia to become a singer.

The title of the film crossed Pawo’s mind when he heard a real-life story about Dechen Tshering, a teacher in Lingzhi who had to tether a yak in the classroom for yak dung to start a fire.

“The story was about seeking a place where one belongs,” said Pawo. “As a filmmaker, I want to share stories of Bhutanese hopes, love, aspirations, fears, losses and sacrifices. I want to tell a story of our time.”

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