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THE MONK AND THE GUN Trailer: Bhutan’s Oscar Submission Highlights a Changing Region

One of the most pleasant surprises of the fall festival season is Pawo Chorning Dorji’s The Monk and the Gun. The filmmaker behind the Oscar-nominated Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom turns the focus on his native Bhutan during a time of change. This charming new film – also Bhuttan’s official entry to the 96th Academy Awards – is set in 2006 when the country was introduced to democracy and held its first-ever election. An elderly lama (Kelsang Choejey), fearful of the possible violent outcomes, sends a young monk (Tandin Wangchuk) on an unlikely mission that changes the lives of many. The film screened at Telluride and TIFF to audiences and critics who have praised it for its lively, charming, and inspirational storytelling. Roadside Attractions has released the official trailer ahead of its February release.

In his review from TIFF, Editor-at-Large Matt Delman wrote “While gun control and gun violence is a theme, the greater existential threat in The Monk and the Gun is democracy… Americans don’t want to believe that democracy is anything less than the gold standard. But in some countries, it was not widely accepted by the locals, as recent generations mostly enjoyed a happy and peaceful life under an ambivalent king. Now they are being forced to split into two factions, red and blue, and choose between two hilariously lame candidates. It’s regrettably all too relevant. The fact that Dorji can tell this history lesson with such humor, tension, and joy is a testament to his filmmaking prowess… Some say every story has been told, but this one feels unique, and I can’t imagine any other filmmaker taking it on. Though the plot may seem slight on paper, the universal themes explored paired with the vastness of the Bhutanese countryside, open up the story and make it feel grand and even spiritually healing.”

Here’s the official synopsis:

The Monk And The Gun 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.

The Monk and the Gun opens in theaters February 2. Watch the trailer below.

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M.J. O'Toole began writing for HtN in early 2021 during the Sundance Film Festival. An NYC native and lifelong cinephile, his favorite films include Chungking Express, The Three Colors Trilogy, Hiroshima Mon Amour, Lovers on the Bridge, and Midnight Cowboy. He is the Digital Marketing Manager for the agency 3rd Impression - working alongside Editor-at-large Matt Delman - that specializes in digital marketing for independent film. He holds a BA from Adelphi University and a Masters in Digital Photography from the School of Visual Arts. You can check out his portrait and street photography on Instagram.

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