Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom makes history as the first Bhutanese movie to land a Best International Feature Film nomination at the Oscars

Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom marks Pawo Choyning Dorji’s feature debut but also Bhutan’s first Oscar entry in 23 years. Today, it made history when it landed a Best International Feature Film nomination—a first for Bhutan.

The Bhutanese drama follows Ugyen Dorji (Sherab Dorji), a schoolteacher who dreams of moving to Australia to become a professional singer. Instead, he’s sent to the remote town of Luanana in Northern Bhutan and Ugyen is faced with new challenges: harsh weather, a lack of amenities and how to find happiness in a place far from home.

Prior to its Oscar nomination, the film has received many awards including the Audience Choice Award for Best Feature Film and Best of the Fest award at the 2020 Palm Springs International Film Festival, Lessina d’Oro award for Best Film at the Film Festival Della Lessinia in Italy and Best Actor for Sherab Dorji at the Festival International du Film de Saint-Jean-de-Luz.

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Lunana was originally submitted as Bhutan’s entry for Best International Feature Film at last year’s awards but was disqualified. It was resubmitted this year and eventually clinched a nomination.

The journey to making the film was not easy. Shot entirely using solar batteries, filming took place for three months in an isolated part of Bhutan with novice actors and crew members. Its creation was inspired by true accounts that director Dorji collected throughout his trekking trips.

The movie’s nomination at the Oscars is not only historic for Bhutan but also a win for South Asian cinema. It’s one of the two South Asian movies to get a nod this year alongside India’s Writing With Fire for Best Documentary Feature. It also joins Drive My Car from Japan as the only three Asian movies to be nominated.

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