That’s literally the case in the film’s first act, a pilgrimage through the Bhutanese highlands that sees human populations dwindle as the altitude climbs. 

VBut even after its protagonist, Ugyen (Sherab Dorji), reaches the far-flung village of the film’s title, where he’s been consigned to teach the local children, “Lunana” proceeds with a slow,  

steady flow that complements the modest charms of its familiar fish-out-of-water narrative. Only the second movie submitted for Oscar consideration by the small landlocked Asian nation of Bhutan 

(the first was Khyentse Norbu’s “The Cup” in 1999), “Lunana” emerged as a surprise contender for Best International Feature Film when Oscar nominations were announced earlier this week. 

Itself a story of underdog triumph more astounding than anything “Lunana” puts forth in its tranquil 110 minutes, this awards recognition shines a welcome spotlight  

Instead of measuring development in gross domestic product, the kingdom of Bhutan—situated on the slopes of the Himalayas, between India and China 

assesses its growth according to a set of conditions like culture and community vitality. Inspired by the Buddhist principle of The Middle Way, which emphasizes balance in all things,  

gross national happiness is about pursuing a less materialistic path to modernization, through which psychological well-being matters as much if not more than economic prosperity. 

And as writer/director Pawo Choyning Dorji lays out in “Lunana,” one key area of happiness the Bhutanese government measures for this initiative is education