Bhutan’s Oscar entry, Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom almost wasn’t shot, let alone submitted for consideration at the Academy Awards. The film—produced on a shoestring budget and filmed using an old camera that ran on solar-powered batteries, with non-professional actors in one of the most remote settlements in Bhutan—nearly missed its opportunity for the big time.
The movie was first submitted for the 2021 awards but was in elidible as Bhutan didn’t have an official submission committee. On the second attempt, the movie landed the nation’s first Oscar nomination, appearing on the list for Best International Film Feature alongside entries from Japan, Denmark, Italy and Norway.
The drama follows Ugyen Dorji (Sherab Dorji), a teacher who dreams of moving to Australia to become a professional singer. But instead, he’s sent to teach in the village of Lunana, home to the most remote school in the world.
First-time director Pawo Choyning Dorji, who also wrote the script, tells Tatler about the film’s journey to global acclaim and why its Oscar nomination is groundbreaking for Bhutan as a whole.