Ughien (Sherab Dorji) is a teacher who works under contract with the government and does not want to teach in the debut film Pavo Choining Dorji, which was shortlisted for the Oscars. Lunana: Like in class. It was nominated for last year’s Academy Award for International Feature Film, but was not accepted because the South Asian country has not presented the film since it was the only one in 1999. Dorje’s film was shortlisted for the International Feature Film, making Bhutan. one of the three countries to be cut for the first time, along with Kosovo and Panama.
In the film, Ughien dreams of going to Australia to become a singer, but he has another year on the contract before leaving work. He lives in the big city of Bhutan, but when his boss notices that he is weak at work, he is transferred to the remote village of Lunana.
When Ughien gets off the bus, he meets Michen (Ughien Norbu Lhendup), his guide to Luna. With a few donkeys and a six day walk ahead, they have to walk through the mountains to get to the village. Ugien writes on his cell phone while hiking, listens to his iPod and hates every minute. Days pass and the walk continues, everything that connects him to the city loses its power and he can no longer ignore his environment. Arriving in the village, Ugen is greeted with open arms, but he immediately begins to complain about living conditions. The school is an old wooden hut without supplies, and the rooms have no windows, so he has to endure the cold.
But children want to learn.
On the first day of work, class captain Peng Zam (playing himself) wakes Ugiena up early and early to make sure he’s in class. Since there are no supplies, the teacher needs to be creative. As a person who doubts teaching, he is fantastic. It includes charisma as a light switch that immediately turns on the student. Soon Ughien meets the best singer of the city of Saldana (Kelden Lhamo Gurung), who shares Ughien’s passion for music. Soon he begins to enjoy time with the people of Lunana, building a kind of cultural bridge. He exposes them to elements of urban life and vice versa. However, he realizes that the experience of living there is more invaluable than anything he could teach them. Lunana has little, but they are happy and do whatever they have.
У Lunana, there is a lesson about personality and tradition. The main question is how to accept their culture and keep the motivation to invest in it? The answer is to share the said culture. Ougen does this when he takes what he has learned from living and teaching in a remote village – particularly a song he learned from Saldana – and sings it for a bar full of white Australians, thus bridging the gap between cultures.
The film well shows the stark contrast between growth among urban landscapes and life a few thousand feet above sea level in the mountains. Dorje and cinematographer Jigme Tenzing do not use sophisticated shooting techniques, but its simplicity makes the film charming and mundane. The director captures a mystical landscape that even the film recognizes global warming.
Ugien’s emotional journey is well thought out and executed through his arch. The audience can see every time a character experiences changes in faces or feelings. The story is brought to the fore by actor Sherab Dorji and actors who are first-time actors from Luna. Peng Zam and the village children light up the screen as their thirst for life and learning is fun and contagious.
Lunana: Like in class it is a piece of life of a film filled with heart and soul that is filmed with sincerity and the message that we must all learn to accept that our differences make us who we are.