Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom

image for Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom

Short takes

Not suitable under 8; parental guidance to 10 (language, themes, subtitles)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom
  • a review of Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 15 June 2022.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 Not suitable due to language, themes and subtitles.
Children aged 8–10 Parental guidance recommended due to language, themes and subtitles.
Children over the age of 10 Ok for this age group, though some may struggle with the fast-paced subtitles.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Occasional mild coarse language
Length: 109 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Disgruntled, big-city teacher, Ugyen Dorji (Sherab Dorji), dreams of becoming a singer and making a better life for himself in Australia. He has spent years dreaming and applying and waiting for a visa to be accepted, much to his grandmother’s displeasure. Before Ugyen can go, he is posted to a school in Lunana, one of the most remote villages in Bhutan that can only be reached after a long bus ride from the city and a week-long trek into the mountains on foot. From the moment he arrives, Ugyen makes it clear he doesn’t want to be there. He struggles to cope with the lack of electricity and indoor plumbing, with the cold, the outdoor toilets and the absence of most material items. The villagers, however, are desperate for a teacher and treat him like a king. The class is so eager to learn that they come to find him if he is late. The kindness and enthusiasm of the children, especially Pem Zam (Pen Zam), the head of class, quickly begins to win Ugyen over and he decides to stay to complete his term of service instead of heading back at the first opportunity. Slowly but surely, Ugyen begins to adjust to living a sparse life, he brightens the lives of his students who already adore him and learns a traditional song from the lovely Saldon (Keldon Lhamo Gurung), who sings her offerings while sitting amidst the clouds. Ugyen’s transforming influence is felt even by Asha (Kunzang Wangdi) the village chief, who begins to sing again, something he hadn’t done since the day his wife died. When it is finally time for Ugyen to leave the village it is a bittersweet good-bye and, while the ending is unclear, viewers are left with the hope that he will, one day, return.


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

The pull of materialism; Poverty; Alcoholism; Lower nature versus higher nature; The power of tradition in shaping beliefs, attitudes and behaviours.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie, including:

  • Asha shares how his wife (and baby) died in childbirth.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

  • None noted.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • While not scary, it is worth noting that Pem Zam tells Ugyen how her mother left with the Yaks, how her alcoholic father is drunk all the time and how she now lives with her grandmother. She doesn’t cry but you can see the pain in her eyes.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

  • Nothing further of concern.

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • Ugyen wears The North Face jacket whose logo is clearly visible in numerous scenes.
  • A Samsung charger is shown on occasion.

Sexual references

  • None noted.

Nudity and sexual activity

  • None noted.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Friends share drinks in a club.
  • Characters drink rice wine on a number of occasions.
  • One man in the village is always drunk and he collapses into a drunken stupor resting against a large rock.
  • Characters drink in a Sydney pub.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • Shit
  • Idiot.

In a nutshell

Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom is a simple film. There is no fast-paced plot, no scandalous intrigue, if anything, it feels real. Audiences will be captivated by the natural charm of the children, and they will be touched by the plight of the community; humbled by the cinematography of the majestic terrain; and haunted by the beautiful melodies echoing over the mountain passes. Due to the nature of the movie and the fast-paced subtitles this is not a film that would largely appeal to most children (though they would be greatly enriched by seeing it) instead it will be most enjoyed by older, mature audiences.

The main messages from this movie are that sometimes the greatest happiness can be found by leading a simple life; that people are far more powerful than things; and that good teachers are worthy of great honour and respect, for it is they who ‘touch the future’.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Respect
  • Generosity
  • Sacrifice
  • Persistence
  • Contentedness.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children the importance of family and tradition (even when they appear old or out of touch), and the importance of community life and helping those around you. They may also like to acknowledge that while Ugyen left Lunana, he was both touched and transformed by the lessons he learned there.