8/10 Bhutan’s first ever entry to garner an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Film, “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom” (which I will refer to simply as “Lunana” going forward) is a heartwarming and inspiring film worth checking out. The story of a young man who wants to pursue singing in Australia if his visa can get approved, he ends up teaching in the most remote school in the world while he puts his dreams on hold. There were only a couple minor complaints I had with this film so I will get those out of the way first. The first act does start a bit slow and it takes a little too long to get the plot into motion. A little fat could have been trimmed from the beginning of the movie. The only other complaint I had was with the ending. While I normally am all for films bucking trends and not taking the safe approach, I will make the rare exception with this film. While certain films that either end in a melancholy way or leave the ending up for interpretation can be some of the best endings a film can offer, once in a while the stereotypical, audience pleasing ending is the way to go. So while I admire films being a little daring with their endings, the way this story is told and the character evolves lead me to believe that a different ending from what we got would have been beneficial to complete our protagonist’s character arc. In fairness though, I didn’t write or direct this film so me wanting to change the ending can be taken with a grain of salt since that decision wasn’t up to me and I respect the film makers for taking a chance, even if I didn’t love it. Those minor objections aside, this is a wonderful film that gives audiences a look deep into Bhutanese culture, traditions and its beautiful people and environment. Our protagonist Ugyen Dorji (played by Sherab Dorji) has completed all but his last year of his government mandated job (teaching in his case) and all he wants to do is flee to Australia to pursue singing, away from the social pressures he currently faces. When he is sent to a remote school for young children, eight days journey from the nearest village, Ugyen has to choose between teaching and his original goals/dreams. His struggles and experience are universal as life often changes unexpectedly for many of us and we must choose between our original plans or the curve balls that life often throws us. His character arc is extremely well done, most of the acting is strong (minus a few extras who were not professional actors) and the music is beautiful. If you are a teacher, want to become one or used to be one, this film will definitely fill your heart with inspiration. Once upon a time I wanted to be a teacher and though I no longer do, this film reminded me of why I wanted to in the first place. The joy of people who barely have anything but place importance on family, community and education was a joyful break from the materialism and greed of modern first world countries. The children in the film are so adorable and these real life villagers had never seen a movie, let alone video cameras before this was filmed in their village. While not perfect, “Lunana” is a wonderful film that will lift your spirits and I am glad that its nomination was able to put it on my radar so I could recommend putting it on yours. Stop slackin’ and start yakin’.

#YakityYakPleaseComeBack / #BhutanThereDungThat / #PutYourBhutanBeforeYouHike / #YakReacher / #ToTeachTheirOwn / #MusicByTheVillagePeople

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