Reviews March 2023
Whatever is good and lovely
Lunana: A Yak In The Classroom
Directed by Pawo Choyning Dorji
Certificate PG, 109 minutes,
Oscar nomination – Best International Feature 2022
Released 10 March
City boy Ugyen (Sherab Dorji) must work five years in education under Bhutan’s National Service system. He hates teaching. He’d much rather be travelling the world as a singer/songwriter. His work performance is suffering, too, so towards the end of his five years, the authorities reassign him to a new school.
The catch is, it’s in Lunana, a remote village high up in the Himalayas. Will he be able to get a mobile phone signal? Stream music on headphones? He kits himself up with walking boots and other suitable upmarket clothing sold to him by urban retailers and sets out on the journey.
However, the train will only get him so far, so he must walk the remainder of the trip over several days with his wellies-wearing guide Michen (Ugyen Norbu Lhendup) who comes down from the village to take him up and is amused when Ugyen’s boots fail to keep out the water en route.
Lunana’s lack of utilities that Ugyen considers essentials – mobile signal, uninterrupted electric power supply – throw him into an unexpected space wherein he starts to reassess his life. It’s not all bad, though. The nine-year-old girl Pem Zam (Pem Zam, a real life Lunana, villager) who is captain of the school class Ugyen is supposed to teach, is very winsome and helpful. And Ugyen finds himself spending hours sitting on the mountainside beside Yak-herdess Saldon (Kelden Lham o Gurung) when she’s not singing traditional songs to herd her yaks.
This film received an Oscar nomination for Best International Feature in 2022, and plays like a breath of fresh air compared to all those US studio movies which constantly throw everything but the kitchen sink at the audience. Lunana, which does indeed feature a yak in the school classroom for much of its running length, unfolds at a refreshingly slow and leisurely pace which has much the same impact on the audience as his posting to Lunana does on the main protagonist.
It’s debatable whether or not this is a children’s film; however, it is thoroughly child-friendly and, provided they can cope with reading subtitles, some children will get a lot out of it. While adults most certainly will.
Jeremy Clarke is a film critic. His website is jeremycprocessing.com
Churches and race
Race for Justice: The struggle for equality and inclusion in British and Irish churches
£9.99 from urcshop.co.uk
At its General Assembly in July 2022, the United Reformed Church expressed the wish to become an anti-racist Church and made an apology for transatlantic slavery and the legacies of slavery existing today. So the publication of Race for Justice in the autumn of 2022 came at an opportune time. The book was commissioned by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI) and edited by Richard Reddie to celebrate 25 years of Racial Justice Sunday in 2020. Materials were prepared and used by a variety of Christian denominations. The book also highlights other ecumenical racial justice initiatives and milestones…
Francis Ackroyd is a retired URC minister
Trinity and culture
Trinitarian Responses to Worldliness: Towards a trinitarian theology of inculturation
Heejun Yang is a Korean theologian and a Methodist pastor in the USA. He brings an interesting perspective on both contemporary western and Korean theology, pointing to the significance of the Triune God for both Christian faith and the world in which we live. He emphasises the need for theological engagement with the reality of God in order to dig deeper into what underlies our practice, and expand our understanding of the nature and relevance of God for the world today…
Elizabeth Welch is a semi-retired minister and chair of the Society for Ecumenical Studies
The Fire Still Burns
Stuart P Scott
£12.99 from urcshop.co.uk
In anticipation of retiring after a long ministry within the United Reformed Church, Stuart Scott gathers recollections and reflections on the theology and practice of his work.
Part chronicle, part anecdote, part analysis and part projection, this collection charts the questions, ‘Where have we come from?’ and ‘Where might we be going?’ as they have been posed by the Church and the people among whom he has worked. Aware that his ministry and the URC itself is ‘running out of years‘, he asks questions of himself and ends each reflection with questions for discussion…
Ian Fosten is book reviews editor for Reform
Praying for children
How to Pray: A guide for young explorers
Pete Greig with Gemma Hunt
Hodder and Stoughton
For 20 years, Pete Greig has been well known for his connection to the 24/7 prayer initiative (www.24-7prayer.com). In 2019, he published a very useful book, How to Pray, which was aimed principally at adults. This latest book covers the same ground but this time is aimed at children. The age range who would benefit from this book is probably eight- to 12-year-olds, but it depends on the child. The style is interesting and reflects the aim of the book. There are few words on each page and lots of clipart illustrations, which I think works well…
Andrew Willett is a United Reformed Church minister serving in south east London
This is an extract from an article published in the March 2023 edition of Reform