Pem Zam, Lunana’s young amateur actor transcending boundaries

Life has a strange way of working itself out when you least expect it. This is true for Pem Zam from Lunana. Being born and brought up in one of the most remote villages in the country, she never dreamt of becoming an actor, at least not in this lifetime. But opportunity knocked on her door in 2019 and offered her one of the leading roles in the Bhutanese feature film, LUNANA: A Yak in the classroom. Today, she is sending her prayers that the film she acted in gets the award for the best feature at the Oscars.

Pem Zam is a raw yet natural talent in LUNANA: A Yak in the classroom. She is featured as the class captain in the movie which tells the story of a teacher from Thimphu being forcefully sent to the remote Mendrelthang Extended Classroom in Lunana. It highlights the importance of education and the difficulties involved in getting a teacher for the students in remote parts of the country.

Today, Pem Zam stays at home helping her parents after completing the sixth grade from Lunana Primary School.

“This film was shot in a remote village. It captures the raw elements of Lunaps’ culture. Moreover, my part of the story in the movie is based on true life events and I gave my best in the movie. So, I am praying that the movie will be awarded the best feature film at the Academy,” said Pem Zam.

The opportunity did not only give her exposure to the world beyond the mountains of Lunana but has also opened her eyes to other opportunities that the world has to offer. She said the experience has given her new meaning to life as she dreams of growing up to be an independent and successful woman.

“I am extremely happy as the movie has become popular now. So, I would like to thank the movie makers for giving me this opportunity without having to approach them myself,” added Pem Zam.

Having acted as a raw talent in the film, Pem Zam is hopeful of more opportunities in the Bhutanese film industry in the future. Apart from her interest in studies, she loves dancing. When required, she also helps her parents in collecting cordyceps, walking for more than a day from her village.

She aspires to become a teacher in the future and also act in more films. She has three siblings. She is the second eldest. Pem Zam was enrolled in school when she was seven.

“I faced some problems during the initial shooting. But somehow, I managed it. I will take the opportunity if somebody offers me another chance to act in a movie. Even if not, I will go looking for opportunities myself in the future,” said Pem Zam.

For now, Pem Zam has plans to continue her studies in one of the schools in Punakha or Wangdue Phodrang from next year. Former teachers of Lunana Primary School have extended support to help her continue to study. She wants to join the new school after the cordyceps collection season.

Changa Dorji, Gasa

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