Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom makes history as the first Bhutanese movie to receive an Oscar nomination


On February 8, the Bhutanese film, "Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom" was nominated for an Academy Award, popularly known as the Oscars.

"Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom" is Pawo Choyning Dorji's feature debut and Bhutan's first Oscar entry in 23 years. The film was the kingdom's second Oscar entry and the first to receive an Oscar nomination. A historic achievement for Bhutan and its entertainment industry.

"The improbable journey of this little film from the glaciers of the Himalayas to the Oscars is a celebration of all the possibilities in art and creativity. We hope our film, displaying very simple and essential human values from one of the most remote places in the world, will continue to touch people's hearts, especially during these difficult times," wrote director Pawo Choyning Dorji in a Facebook post.

The Challenges of Filming Lunana

The movie was set in Lunana, the most remote region in Bhutan, located about three miles above sea level. Due to the inaccessibility of the area, Pawo and his crew transported their firewood, batteries, solar chargers, food and other essentials on 75 mules. As there was no refrigeration in Lunana, the crew brought non-perishable rations such as dried pumpkin and mushrooms.

Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom is a simple, lighthearted yet mesmerising film infused with Bhutanese humour. The movie features the journey of a discontented teacher, Ugyen, from the capital city Thimphu, being assigned to the remotest school in Bhutan. Ugyen's dream is to eventually move to Australia to become a professional singer. His character is very relatable to many young people who harbour hopes to reside overseas with the thinking that the grass is greener elsewhere. 

As Ugyen reaches Lunana, he was met with unconditional kindness and warm hospitality from the community. The movie explores the themes of happiness, connectivity, climate change, relationships and identity in a simplistic manner that is highly appealing. 

The casts of Lunana

Imagine acting in a movie — an Oscars nominated one at that — when you have never actually watched a film in your life. That pretty much summarises the experience of the majority of the Lunana casts. All of the actors are first-time actors. The three main casts were played by non-professional actors from Thimphu while the rest of them are actual residents of Lunana who have never seen a movie. 

Pawo adapted to his characters' lack of experience by tailoring the script to their lives so that the actors can be more natural. Basically, they are just playing themselves which brought out the authenticity of the scenes. For example, the adorable bright-eyed class captain, Pem Zam — who has won hearts around the world — goes by her real name in the movie. 

The stunning mountain landscapes, naturalistic performances and relatable storylines certainly contribute to the success and popularity of the film. 

Director Pawo Choyning Dorji and Pem Zam during filming in Lunana. Photo source: Kinley Wangchuk.

Lunana's journey to the Oscars

Last year, the film was selected to represent Bhutan to compete for nominations at Oscars 2021. But The Academy Awards did not accept the movie because they did not recognize Bhutan’s selection committee as the country had not submitted a film since 1999. Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom is the second Oscar entry from Bhutan since The Cup by Khyentse Rinpoche in 1999 and the first to receive a nomination. 

For the 2022 awards, Bhutan formed a special selection committee. Lunana was among 15 shortlisted films of 93 Academy Award submissions from around the world. 

On February 8, it was one of five films — alongside others from Japan, Denmark, Italy and Norway — nominated for an Oscar in the International Feature Film category.

9 important life lessons from Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom

How to watch Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom Online

Lunana is now available on digital platforms across the United States.

Here are links where you can watch Lunana online. 

Apple TV:
Google Play:

How to visit Lunana?

To experience the charm of Lunana, you can attempt one of the toughest treks in the world. The 28-day gruelling Snowman Trek takes you through the villages in Lunana. Only the most adventurous souls have attempted this tough and demanding trekking route. Thus, successful completion of the trek is definitely an accomplishment to boast. Alternatively, if you are looking for an ultra-luxury experience, you can also take a 3-hour helicopter ride all the way from Paro Valley to Lunana. Just contact your tour operator to arrange a helicopter tour package to Lunana for you.

Related Posts

Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom is one of the 15 shortlisted films...

The Academy Awards, popularly known as Oscars is the most prestigious award within the film industry.

Jan 10, 2022 16:01

9 important life lessons from Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom

Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom tells the story of the journey of an unmotivated teacher, Ugyen Dorji, hailing from the...

Apr 12, 2021 10:38

Bhutanese artist wins one of Asia's top art contests

The International Artist Grand Prize Competition is held in Taipei, Taiwan.

Oct 04, 2023 18:19

Art United: A Contemporary Vision' Exhibition Now Open to Public

'Art United: A Contemporary Vision' Exhibition was unveiled by Her Royal Highness Ashi Sonam Dechan Wangchuck

Sep 19, 2023 18:56

Bhutanese Students Get Ready to Compete In First Global Robotic...

Five students from Bhutan will compete in the First Global Robotic Competition in Singapore, which is themed Hydrogen...

Sep 14, 2023 13:51

Empowering youths on social issues and mental health

Bhutan conducted a youth program to tackle pressing issues such as adolescent sexual reproductive health and rights...

Sep 12, 2023 15:38



Breaking Barriers: Bhutanese Sign Language App for Inclusivity

To enhance the learning of sign languages, the Wangsel Institute for the Deaf in Paro launched an app called Bhutanese Sign Language,...

Dec 05, 2023 11:44

PDP Achieved Landslide Victory for Preliminary Round of National Elections

The victory of the People’s Democratic Party in securing 39 out of the 47 constituencies during the primary round came as a truly unexpected...

Dec 01, 2023 18:28


Bhutanese artist wins one of Asia's top art contests

The International Artist Grand Prize Competition is held in Taipei, Taiwan.

Oct 04, 2023 18:19

Art United: A Contemporary Vision' Exhibition Now Open to Public

'Art United: A Contemporary Vision' Exhibition was unveiled by Her Royal Highness Ashi Sonam Dechan Wangchuck

Sep 19, 2023 18:56


Brand Bhutan: Bhutan Herbal Tea

Bhutan Herbal Tea is the brainchild of two Bhutanese individuals who first crossed paths in New York during a Bhutanese New Year gathering...

Nov 25, 2023 13:56

Brand Bhutan: Deki Natural Dyes

Deki Natural Dyes is a family business that was formally established in 2011, and it holds a rich legacy spanning three generations.

Nov 15, 2023 12:06


Dragon Boys' Resilience Shines Through: Bhutan's World Cup Journey

Following the 4-0 defeat in Hong Kong, the prevailing anticipation was that Bhutan's national team would need to score at least five goals...

Oct 19, 2023 11:40

Historic hybrid chess tournament pits Bhutanese against American players

In the inaugural Bhutan and US Friendship Bridge Tournament on September 2, ten local chess players engaged in competition against...

Sep 12, 2023 11:05


Alii Palau Airlines Inaugural Flight From Singapore to Palau via Drukair

On November 23, 2023, Alii Palau Airlines made history with its inaugural flight to Palau.

Dec 04, 2023 10:32

Singapore to Palau: Alii Palau Airlines Launches Historic Route With Drukair

You can now visit the Palau Paradise directly from Singapore!

Oct 27, 2023 16:17


Balancing Dreams and Realities: An Attempt of a Bhutanese To Live the Australian Dream

Australia has long held an equally special allure for Bhutanese with a tantalizing prospect of the ‘Australian Dream’ encompassing a better...

Oct 26, 2023 11:51

Crafting dreams in Laya: The carpenter settlers of the highlands

Laya, nestled in the Bhutanese highlands, is known for its stunning natural beauty and unique cultural heritage.

Sep 12, 2023 11:28

Subscribe to our newsletter

Never miss out on new happenings and news stories!

Download Daily Bhutan Mobile App

Connecting with us just got easier!