A Note on Orientalism in Lunana

Edward Said describes Orientalism as a built-in system or method by which, the West not only socially constructed and actually produced the Orient, but controlled and managed it through a a series of power relations, working through the tropes, images, and representations of literature, art, visual. In other words it is the imperialist and colonialist outlook on the east by the west.

It can be argued that “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom” is trying to be vocal on the idea of orientalism. Unlike most movies of this nature, the teacher or “savior” or person with power would be of different nationality or one group (typically the have not’s/ not white or western) is portrayed as evil. However, in this movie both the children/villagers and Ugyen, the protagonist, are both Bhutanese. What differentiates Ugyen from the children and villagers is that fact that he is more “modernized.” This idea of “advanced” society and tradition society is also seen through what Australia means to Ugyen. Although Ugyen goes to Australia at the end of the movie, the fact that he sings the yak herders song shows that the movie is going against this western idea of the east (that maybe all easterners want to be like them but just can’t). Also, the cast of the film is basically all “amateur” actors, with actual Lunana villagers and other Bhutanese people. This goes against the idea of Orientalism because the film takes the actual perspective and thoughts of the people the film is about to portray an accurate representation of that group.