the long butanes-chinese The Happiness of Little Things (Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom) is in the running for the Oscar for Best International Film of 2022 on the awards shortlist. A well-constructed, well-developed drama, a feature that conveys a beautiful message and from the title, we can see that it is a work with purpose and that delivers what is expected. Despite being a pleasant production, it is not very creative in its structure, but even so, it is a great choice for a quiet Sunday.
The Happiness of Little Things, written and directed by newcomer Pawo Choyning Dorji, who is also a writer and photographer, portrays a young teacher unhappy with his profession. Ugyen awaits approval of his visa to move to Australia and try his hand at life as a musician. However, to improve his attitude, his government superiors transfer him to the most remote school in the country, in the small village of Lunana. This task will be by far the most enriching, as he needs to see the trials that many go through to appreciate what he has.
Your first obstacle is the long journey. He has to walk for eight days to reach his destination, and with him are a guide and a helper from the village, but the young teacher prefers to isolate himself listening to music with his headphones. After much effort, he arrives at Lunana. As fiction goes hand in hand with reality, there he discovers very precarious conditions at the school and in his accommodations. He immediately decides he wants to leave as soon as the pack donkeys rest. However, in the meantime, the kids eager to learn and the extremely reverent villagers convince him to stay until the end of the season.
From the national title, you can already see what Ugyen will discover “the happiness of small things”. In addition to getting attached to the misfit protagonist, we started rooting for the children and especially the captain of the class, Pem Zam, who has a presence, a charisma, a contagious energy that moves us throughout her screen appearances. Something interesting is that he starts to entertain himself with the country life that he rejected during the journey to the village. He even struggled to learn Lunana's own song, and to deal with a lack of resources that make situations difficult.
Although it is a long with expected actions, the production proves to be very real and thrills the viewer from beginning to end. We believe in the attitudes and beliefs of the people who live in the village, but we are in doubt about the future that this teacher can bring to the residents, as they say in some passages of the feature. Will these children leave the happiness they have in the village behind? According to the outcome of The Happiness of Little Things, if they do, they will find themselves empty in the same way that Ugyen feels when performing in a bar in Australia, after the experience in Lunana.
O yak of the original title refers to the cow species of the region and in parallel with this, the village leader compares Ugyen to a Yak, as he is indispensable to the villagers. And indeed, a Yak is given shelter in the classroom, a noble place where he will not feel the cold of the open country. Actions like these transform the young teacher, who sees in practice the meaning of government propaganda about the Gross National Happiness index stamped on the shirt he was wearing in the first scene of the film.
In The Happiness of Little Things the landscapes enchant, the photography is beautiful and is signed by Jigme Tenzing, the only professional in the field in the country, who studied at the New York Film Academy. The cast is super talented and draws attention. And something that impresses us is the way the direction worked, as we realized that it soon starts with the camera shaking, representing the young teacher's life in disarray and becomes more static when he is in the village. The feature will be released in Brazil on January 27, with previews starting on the 20th, by Pandora Filmes.