February 27, 2012

Happy Mon. Grayish here and  bit cooler at +5.

We watched a transporting documentary of Mongolian nomadic life called The Story of the Weeping Camel (2004). The plot, such as it is, traces a family’s efforts to save a white Bactrian camel colt who is rejected by his normal brown mother after a difficult birth. The family consists of three generations living together in a yurt-style tent structure. The interior of their home is surprisingly neat and colorful, the few objects of furniture painted neatly in bright primary colors similar to the colors of the clothes they wear. The two young boys of the family are sent to the small town several miles away to ask the head of the music school there to come play his Mongolian “violin” for the camels to assist the mother to adjust to her baby, who will die without her nurturing. The boys ride two camels, one of them white like the new colt, to town, which is a windy, dusty village, and complete their errand. While there they watch a cartoon on a TV, which fascinates the younger boy especially.

When the musician arrives at their yurt on his motorbike, they tie the instrument to the mother camel’s front hump to effect some sort of sympathetic magic on her; then the musician begins playing low rasping sounds that sound remarkably like the camel’s characteristic moaning and braying. When the mother camel appears mesmerized by the sounds, the family leads the colt to her and a bond is established.

The real interest in the film, however (though the camels are way cool—check out the double humps and the huge splayed feet and thick wool), is the daily life of the family, who live close to their sheep, goats, and camels. The animals all have names and are cared for assiduously, as they are the wealth of the family. They reckon the cost of store items in terms of how many sheep the items cost. Despite the presence of cameras (a German crew), the family goes about its daily life of rising, cooking, eating, animal tending, game playing, and religious observance (Buddhist). The spare beauty of the Gobi desert and the high mountains in the distance reminds you constantly you are looking at a different world. One function of film is to let you experience something you otherwise would not even know about. This film achieves that. The film is rated PG for “some thematic material,” which turns out to be the camel birth scenes, which are a cross between All Things Great and Small and Nature. Nominated for an Oscar for best documentary. From Netflix.

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