Meet Pawo Choyning Dorji Director of Bhutan’s 1st Oscar Nomination – AsAmNews

Band Jana Monji, AsAmNews Reporter Arts & Culture

Being shortlisted for an Oscar was “surreal”, but on the morning of February 8, 2022, when the nominations were announced, Pawo Choyning Dorji (དཔའ་བོ་ཆོས་དབྱིངས་རྡོ་རྗི།) recalled not even sure he was named. “I even thought that by announcing it, the two hosts (Tracee Ellis Ross and Leslie Jordan) were having a comedic moment.”

After all, it wasn’t too long ago that a confused Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway announced the wrong Best Picture winner. Dorji, screenwriter and director of Bhutan’s first Oscar-nominated film Lunana: a yak in the classroom, recalled this fiasco of 2017 when The Earth was announced instead of the actual winner, Moonlight.

When speaking with Dorji, one is instantly charmed by his modesty and his smile. When asked how many languages ​​he speaks, Dorji replied that besides English, “In Bhutan we have many different dialects for a small country. I speak four. I speak Tibetan. I speak a little Hindi. Then he admitted with a chuckle, “And basic Chinese, you might say, because my wife is Taiwanese.” His wife, Fanyun “Stephanie” Lai, is an actress and producer who also happens to be the daughter of American playwright Stan Lai. The couple divide their time between Taiwan, Bhutan and India and have two children.

People who know the country generally have positive feelings. “Bhutan in the world is known as the ‘happy country,'” Dorji explained. “Usually when I introduce myself to someone, I say. “I am Bhutanese.” The next question will always be: “You must be very happy.

This may prevent people from seeing the reality of Bhutan today. Dorji explained, “It’s good to be known as the happy country, but the fact is that Bhutan is a third world country. We have limited resources. Because of this, there are real problems. We have thousands and thousands of people leaving Bhutan, especially young people in search, ironically, of happiness elsewhere. The second thing is that we have hundreds of teachers who are disappointed with their work, with what they are trying to do. Hundreds of teachers, they quit their jobs.

Dorji is not the typical Bhutanese as his father was a diplomat and he was born in India. He also lived very young in Europe and the Middle East as well as the United States before returning to Bhutan with a different perspective after seeing the outside world.

“When you look at Bhutan, you will find that the teacher category loses the most people, resigning every year.” And that’s why Dorji made this movie. “Lunana: a yak in the classroom is really a reflection of what I see happening in Bhutan right now. I think that filmmakers, but in addition even artists and storytellers, we have a very important responsibility. I think our creations, the stories we tell, should and must reflect the world we live in right now.

While the film itself is fiction, Dorji explained that it is based on true stories shared with him by real teachers. It’s a story he’s wanted to do for a while. Even the title of the film comes from a story told to him by a teacher.

“I met a teacher and realized he had worked in the highlands so I asked him what it was like to live in the highlands. He said, “It was so difficult because there were no trees with firewood, so I had to climb mountains to collect yak dung. So finally I was so tired that I tied up a yak in the classroom. I was like, wow! A yak in the classroom! How visually amazing it would be to capture. Items like that.

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Dorji was a photographer before becoming a filmmaker. From his time in India, he was heavily influenced by Raghunath Rai Chowdhry, known as R,aghu Rai. Rai (December 18, 1942) is an Indian photographer and photojournalist who was a protege of Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004). Dorji came to cinema through Tibetan/Bhutanese lama (and filmmaker) Khyentse Norbu (born June 18, 1961)

You can clearly see Dorji’s vision and the photographer’s eye in luna. “I worked closely with cinematographer Jigme Tenzing,” Dorji recalls. “The two of us had a very clear idea of ​​how we wanted to shoot this film. I don’t like cameras that move a lot. I don’t like cameras that follow the characters. I like the camera to be always static. I like that the story opens up and develops organically. If you notice in the film, most of the scenes are static. We had this plan: we wanted the audience to really feel what the protagonist felt.

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The entire film was shot with a single camera. In Lunana there was no electricity, so they used solar energy. Without electricity, this meant that the lighting relied heavily on bounces and fills.

This week, Dorji is more likely wondering how a guy with a camera, no major studio behind him and until recently, no agent, managed to make it to the Oscars, attending receptions with Denzel Washington, Jessica Chastain and Steven Spielberg. He’s a man who represents a country that hadn’t submitted a film in over two decades and led to a scramble that delayed its official submission for a year. “You could say it’s a story of perseverance.” With such a memorable and amazing debut, one can only hope that Dorji continues to tell stories. Quoting Buddha, Dorji said, “We create illusions to show people the truth. And in Lunana: a yak in the classroomhe showed the world the majestic truth of his happy country and even a possible path to happiness.

The 94th Academy Awards will be held at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, Los Angeles on March 27, 2022. Lunana: a yak in the classroom collides with japan drive my carfrom Denmark To run awayItaly”God’s hand and Norway The worst person in the world. Lunana: a yak in the classroom is currently streaming on YouTube, Apple TV, Vudu, and Amazon Prime Video.

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