Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom has been nominated for Best International Feature Film in the 94th Academy Awards ceremony and as I watch the film, I notice similarities between the movie’s plot, and me watching it as a member of the western world. The film stars a young man who is a teacher but no longer wishes to be. Ugyen is then sent to the most remote school in the world, Lunana, where he is convinced, he will quit and leave. The teacher begins to enjoy the village and teaching more and more as he starts to appreciate what a teacher can really do for the world. “A teacher touches the future,” is what the villagers believe. Throughout the story, the teacher becomes humbled by the villagers as he transitions from his city life. Humbled in a way that he begins to appreciate the hard work and the simple beauty of the village.
As I watch the film, I cannot help but see motifs within the movie. The city the teacher hails from represents western culture with the fun pop music, professional hiking shoes, and a (possibly) Nike jacket. These are the things westerners are comfortable seeing because we do not have to make any sort of effort to understand. These things are exactly the same in the west. As Ugyen transitions into the village, he gradually starts to ease his hold on his familiar city life. Singing is a motif within the film and the contrast between the songs the villagers sing compared to Ugyen is stark. The songs are not something a western person can easily pick up and Ugyen has the same problem, therefore starting to humble us both. The viewer has just as much learning to do as the new teacher. The film teaches both Ugyen and the viewer to always try to understand another person’s way of life. Ugyen constantly complained about Lunana until he started to understand it. As westerners, we make assumptions about the ways others live, even within their own country. I live in a very urban environment and have assumptions about people who live on farms, let alone people who live on a different side of the world, have a different language, different traditions and simply a different way of life. It should be common decency for someone to always try to understand another person’s life before making any assumptions about them.