Is It Orientalist?

Keeping in mind that “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom” is a Bhutanese film, filmed with Bhutanese actors, by a Bhutanese director, it takes a different approach to search for orientalism in the plot. Unlike a very capitalist-driven society like we have in America, Bhutan is known for measuring its success not numerically, with products produced and sold, but in happiness. The film’s narrative seems very much to be based on this philosophy; forcing Ugyen to adapt and find his own happiness in Lunana. Because of this, it is hard to argue that the film is innately orientalist, at least more than anything else is in an unfortunately Eurocentric world.

For example, Ugyen dreams of being a famous musician in Australia and initially thinks that his transition to Lunana will jeopardize that opportunity. However, he soon realizes that music is valued in a similar, if not even deeper way in Lunana than in the more urban communities he is used to. Even using a critical eye, “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom” seems to be a very pure and honest movie, looking to spread a holistic message about community and connection. In some ways Ugyen is a yak for Lunana, but Lunana is a yak for him, being a pivotal part of his life that he will never forget and that will have a larger impact on his future, as we end up seeing when he plays the Yak song in Australia.

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