English | Dzongkha Sunday, January 19, 2020

Lunana: a Yak in the Classroom wins Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature


Jan 14, 2020

A Bhutanese film, “Lunana: a Yak in the Classroom” directed by Pawo Choyning Dorji won the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature at the 31st Palm Springs International Film Festival held in California.

The Palm Springs International Film Festival is one of the largest film festivals in North America featuring new and celebrated documentaries and films. Over 150 films from 81 different countries, including 51 Oscar-nominated films saw its entry in the Festival this time.

“Lunana: a Yak in The Classroom” is an enchanting and touching tale about the necessity of finding a peaceful moment in life to reassess the priorities and reflect on what happiness really means.

“We have a lot of people who are pursuing more materialistic gains and going towards the urban centres of the world. So, I wanted to make a movie and create a story where the protagonist is taken to a journey at the other end of the spectrum and in this case, it is Lunana, probably the most remote, backward village not only in Bhutan but the world.

“A place with no electricity, no telephone, no modern facilities and I wanted to see if the character could discover what he sought after in this place and it’s interesting. I really do feel that it is only through the experience of darkness can one really appreciate the light. So that is what the movie is about, finding what you seek in the least expected place,” said Pawo Choyning Dorji, the Writer/Director of the film.

Shot on location at more than 16,000 feet above the sea level, the movie was filmed with real local children and villagers in one of the most remote villages in Bhutan using solar-powered batteries and limited practical filmmaking resources. It took three months for the shooting of the movie to be complete.

“We have competed in numerous film festivals, each time coming so close. In Cairo, we lost the Golden Pyramid Award for the best international film of the year by just one vote which was quite disappointing. And then we came second in the audience choice award again in Cairo. We lost by 0.03 points and it was disappointing because there was no prize for the second place but also encouraging to know that a story of Bhutan, shot in Lunana can somehow connect with the audience of the world,” he added.

Since the first world premiere of the movie at the London Film Festival in October last year, the highland-based drama has been screened in 12 different international film festivals so far.

“I think, as for Bhutanese cinema, this shows that yes we can compete with the best of the world. I am very proud to say that about 95 per cent of the crew was Bhutanese and we were able to make something that is worthy of such a prestigious award. It gives a lot of pride, inspiration to know that we can make something,” he further added.

Receiving good feedback and response from the viewers in the international platforms, the movie will now be theatrically released in France, Japan, China and Taiwan in summer this year.

Meanwhile, in Bhutan, the movie will be released next month.

Passang Dorji

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