Nominated for Best International Feature Film Oscar at the upcoming Academy Awards, Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom is simple in structure & earnest in its approach but the drama it packs in is a familiar one minus any conflict or complexity that’s expected from such setups. Instead, it serves better as a fascinating insight into the Bhutanese culture & modest living through the unassuming ways of their countryfolk.
Written & directed by Pawo Choyning Dorji, the story follows a schoolteacher with different aspirations who’s sent to the most remote school in the world where he, detached from his westernised comforts, slowly begins to understand the value & importance of his work and learns to appreciate the beauty of rural life. The narrative unfolds at a quiet pace but fails to do anything interesting to make itself stand out from the norm.
Shot in gorgeous mountainside locations and exquisitely assisted by its serene camerawork, the imagery comes imbued with a soothing quality & sense of calmness that makes the ride worthwhile but the transformation that our protagonist undergoes still feels simplistic since the story never digs into the character deeper than the surface and simply hurries through the process. Also, acting from the supporting cast is more authentic than the lead.
Most of the extra hospitality shown by the people of Lunana may not be convincing for the people from outside, but its true: thats the way it is, the people in the villages are so welcoming and the movie shows it very well. From time to time, many teachers from India was working in some of these remote places of Bhutan. Many who returned were fed-up with the city life in India or outside and then went back.
Overall, Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom isn’t without its merits and is a sincere effort by all means. Where most similar stories work towards something more complex or ambitious, this one finds comfort in the stillness of its surroundings. Though it only glances at its themes and is devoid of surprises, its silent reflection on what it means to be a teacher and how the simplest events in life can profoundly affect our being makes this Bhutanese drama worth a shot.
Review by CinemaClown