Set in 2006, a pivotal time of change for the people of Bhutan as they prepare for the dawn of democracy, The Monk and the Gun director Pawo Choyning Dorji’s second feature film is a whip smart comedic drama about the ways westernization and modernization can both negatively and positively impact indigenous communities.
There’s a fine line between satire and pure comedy in film. Satire is used to poke fun at the expense of the subject to reveal the absurdity of their behaviors and even philosophy, whereas pure comedy is about showing the natural humor that arises through the everyday interactions of the characters.
In his second feature film Choyning Dorji (Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom, 2019), very carefully ensures that his characterisations of the people of Ura, a small village in the picturesque mountains of Bhutan, are genuinely funny, rather than satirical.
This distinction is important to make as the premise of The Monk and the Gun relies on the most seemingly absurd situation, a young naive monk (Tandin Wangchuck) going on a mission to find two guns at the behest of the Lama, Benji (Tandin Sonam) a tour guide in dire financial straits taking an white American male tourist to find a collectible Civil War era rifle, and Tshomo (Decki Lahmo) a mother who sees the world around her changing, and possibly not for the best.
In our interview during the 2023 Busan International Film Festival, I spoke with Choyning Dorji, Lahmo and Sonam about the ways the film cleverly subverts the expectations audiences would have of the characters, the story, and the country of Bhutan itself. And James Bond. Trust me, the way Choyning Dorji inserts the mythos of this legendary screen character is probably my favorite meta reference to 007 ever.
Freelance Critic, Journalist & Podcaster
African American Film Critics Association Member, Tomatometer-Approved Critic
Co-Host & Producer So Here’s What Happened! Podcast
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