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The Story of the Weeping Camel (Die Geschichte vom weinenden Kamel) (2003)

  Directed by: Byambasuren Davaa, Luigi Falorni
Written by: Byambasuren Davaa, Luigi Falorni
Starring: Ikhbayar Amgaabazar, Janchiv Ayurzana, Odgerel Ayusch, Amgaabazar Gonson, Enkhbulgan Ikhbayar, Guntbaatar Ikhbayar, Uuganbaatar Ikhbayar, Zeveljamz Nyam, Chimed Ohin
Links: The Story of the Weeping Camel on the IMDb, Official site, Buy on DVD
Genre: Documentary

This movie gets: 9.00 (1 rating) Ranking: not yet ranked (awaiting 2 ratings)

The Story of the Weeping Camel (Die Geschichte vom weinenden Kamel) (2003) is also mentioned in pearly's review of A Time for Drunken Horses (2000).

"It's not just the camel that's weeping" - a review by pearly

Set in the Gobi desert of Mongolia, The Story of the Weeping Camel is a truly fascinating and special documentary. The filmmakers selected a single family unit to focus their filming on, choosing a family who own and tend 60 camels and 300+ goats and sheep. The family spans four generations, from great-grandfather all the way down to little toddler.

The film shows the family's day-to-day life in the isolated desert, tending to the animals, cooking, cleaning, and so on. They lead a fairly simple life and the focus of their recent lives is the pregnancy of one of their camels. After struggling to give birth, the mother rejects the baby camel, and two of the family's sons are sent to the nearest town to bring back a musician, needed to lead a ritual which will bring mother and baby camel back together.

This film is everything that I wanted Atanarjuat (2001) to be. The films, while in some ways polar opposites, are at the same time extremely similar, and will no doubt remind people who have seen both of one another. But whereas, in Atanarjuat, I longed for the storytelling to be stripped back to more of a documentary style containing a story, this is what The Story of the Weeping Camel delivers. And though it is for the main part a documentary, the film manages to form a story with a distinct beginning, middle, and end, and spectacularly delivers a portion of these people's lives in a way which leaves you with a real message, and a longing to know what happens next. The end product of this film must be due in part to the skill of directors Byambasuren Davaa and Luigi Falorni (while they basically filmed the family's life, some reenactment was also used), but it also appears that they had tremendous luck in the way that the pieces fell when they were filming, as it manages to become more than the sum of its parts.

While the film is mainly focused on the lifestyle of the nomadic people of the Gobi desert, one of my favourite sections of the film was the journey taken by the two sons, Enkhbulgan Ikhbayar (aka Dude) and Uuganbaatar Ikhbayar (aka Ugna), into the township to find the musician. Upon their arrival in the town, Dude's lackadaisical demeanour is in stark contrast to his younger brother Ugna's kid-in-a-candy store manner. I took this as an age difference thing, but I have since read on the website that Dude had earlier left the family and headed off for school, but has now returned to the family, having decided that he prefers their lifestyle. Regardless, it is fascinating to see Ugna's attitude towards the more modern life on display at the township, and his insistence upon his return that the family need a television. Perhaps, where Dude decided that his family's traditional life was for him, Ugna will later decide on a different path.

Aside from this, the scenes of the birth of the baby camel, and even more so the ritual to help the camel suffering post-natal depression and her poor baby, are truly amazing. This would have to be one of my favourite ever documentaries.

pearly gives this movie 9 out of 10.
Review created on Wed 16 Feb 2005

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