EXCLUSIVE: UTA has signed filmmaker Pawo Choyning Dorji, who this year brought Bhutan its first-ever International Feature Oscar nom with Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom, for representation.
Dorji’s feature directorial debut is a drama about a young teacher who dreams of emigrating to Australia, only to find himself assigned to a school in the most remote village in Northern Bhutan, which has neither running water nor electricity. The high altitude, lack of amenities and increasingly cold weather, as the winter closes in, make him want to leave as soon as he arrives. But the local children then launch a charm offensive in a bid to convince him to stay. Dorji wrote and directed the pic, which was Bhutan’s first Oscar entry in decades—also producing alongside Steven Xiang, Stephane Lai and Honglin Jia. Lunana premiered in 2019 at the BFI London Film festival and went on to win multiple awards at festivals across the world—including two Audience Awards at the Palm Springs Film Festival—before earning its Academy Award nom. Samuel Goldwyn Films served as its distributor in North America.
Dorji, who is also a photographer, is currently directing and producing his second feature, Four Days to Full Moon, for which he also wrote the screenplay. That film will watch as an American who travels into Bhutan in search of a treasure crosses path with a young monk who wanders through the serene mountains, instructed by his teacher to make things right again.
Dorji first discovered cinema in 2012 while working as an assistant to Khyentse Norbu on his feature, Vara: A Blessing. He was also the producer of Norbu’s Hema Hema: Sing me a Song While I Wait, which premiered at the Locarno Film Festival in 2016.
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