In his beguiling second feature film, THE MONK AND THE GUN director, writer and producer Pawo Choyning Dorji captures the wonder and disruption as Bhutan becomes one of the world’s youngest democracies. Known throughout the world for its extraordinary beauty and its emphasis on Gross National Happiness, the remote Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan was the last nation to connect to the internet and television. And if that weren’t enough change, the King announced shortly afterwards that he would cede his power to the people via their vote and a new form of government: Democracy. An elderly lama (Kelsang Choejey), recognizing that extraordinary change is about to sweep through his country, is troubled by the possible outcomes. He instructs his young disciple Tashi (Tandin Wangchuk) to set forth into the kingdom and bring him two guns before the full moon to “set it right.” The young monk is perplexed by his guru’s request, and his familiarity with guns is based solely on images from the only film available on television: James Bond. His quest brings him into contact with a scheming American gun collector Ron (Harry Einhorn), leading to a most unexpected outcome. Director Pawo Choyning Dorji (Yak in the Classroom) stops by to talk about his award winning, Oscar® shortlisted latest film, his choice to mix non-professional actors with established actors, his inspiration for this gentile satire and once again showcasing his beloved country of Bhutan.
About the filmmaker – Director & Writer Pawo Choyning Dorji started his film making career under the guidance of film Director and renowned Buddhist Lama, Khyentse Norbu. Pawo worked as Norbu’s assistant for Norbu’s films Vara: A Blessing (2013) and Hema Hema: Sing me a Song While I Wait (2016). Pawo made his directorial debut in 2019 with Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom. The film was shot in one of the remotest human settlements in the world, so remote that the production relied on solar batteries and local yak herders to be the main cast of the film. The film went on to become a festival favorite, winning numerous awards, before making history by becoming the first ever Bhutanese film to secure an Oscar nomination when it was nominated for Best International Feature Film at the 94th Academy Awards. The Monk and the Gun is Pawo’s second feature film as Writer, Director, and Producer. Pawo is the youngest recipient of the Royal Order of Bhutan, The Druk Thuksey (The Heart Son of the Thunder Dragon), an award bestowed upon him by King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck on December 17, 2022. The award recognizes individual for distinguished service to the Bhutanese nation and people.
“The film pulls off something truly bold: taking what are perhaps the most emotionally and symbolically loaded items in existence and subverting their meaning completely to end on a note of peace, joy, and hope for the future.” – Ross McIndoe, Slant Magazine
“This wholly entertaining film takes perfect pot shots at the divisive nature of American politics…But Dorji is an equal opportunity satirist poking fun at the evils of western influences but also the dangers of unenlightened mob rule.” – Frank J. Avella, Awards Daily