THE STORY OF THE WEEPING CAMEL
Review by Ed Nguyen
Ingen Temee, Botok, Ikhbayar Amgaabazar, Odgerel Ayusch, Enkhbulgan Ikhbayar,
Uuganbaatar Ikhbayar, Munkhbayar Lhagvaa
Directors: Byambasuren Davaa, Luigi Falorni
Audio: Mongolian Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround or Stereo Surround
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Video: Color, 1.77:1 widescreen
Studio: New Line
Features: Photo gallery, trailers
Length: 90 minutes
Release Date: January 25, 2005
mankind plunders the earth more and more in search of her treasures.
This drives the spirits away that should protect us."
on earth is enduring and persistent. From
the extreme winter chill of the Antarctic sub-continent, to the inky depths of
the abyss, to the barren wastelands of the arid desert, life always finds a way
to thrive in some of the most inhospitable regions of the world.
Story of the Weeping Camel
documents the miracle of life and birth in one such region - the harsh Gobi
Desert of remote southern Mongolia. This
film follows the hardships and tender joys of a small family of nomads living in
this unlikeliest of realms. The
family consists of elders, a pair of young parents, and their three small
children. Just as important,
however, are the family's camels, vital for transport, trade, wool and clothing,
and even milk. The family survives
in an interdependent bond with their domestic livestock, which provide
sustenance and in turn receive food and shelter from the humble nomads.
Although these lonely desert dwellers are not completely isolated from
civilization, travel to the nearest town still represents a significant journey
and one not casually made. So, for
the most part, man and beast must rely upon one another for survival.
story of this film is a dramatic and sad one - the difficult birth of a rare
white camel colt and the subsequent struggles of the nomads to unite the young
colt with its distraught young mother. Apparently,
the arduous and painful birth has caused the mother camel to reject her newborn
colt, which without her nurturing care and milk will assuredly perish.
As surrogate parents, the nomads try to feed the colt, but ultimately, it
still requires its mother's affections. The
nomads repeatedly draw from their accumulated cultural wisdom to try to bring
mother and calf together but to no avail. Indeed,
the scenes of rejection are almost heartbreaking in their emotional simplicity -
the colt crying aloud in its loneliness and sadly shadowing a mother who shuns
all their tricks finally fail, the nomads send their young sons to town to
summon the master violinist. This
musician, with his traditional two-stringed erhu (Chinese violin), might finally
reunite mother and colt through the performance of a Hoos ritual.
The lyrical experience that is the Hoos ritual thus becomes the film's
culminating moment, one that offers some of the most astonishingly touching
animal reactions ever captured on film. This
sequence is quite unforgettably tear-jerking, as much for the participants as
for viewers. After all, this film
is the story of a weeping camel.
Story of the Weeping Camel
was released as a National Geographic film.
Combining intimate scenes of family communion with frank depictions of
the daily labors of everyday life, this film paints an exotic yet honest
portrait of survival in the Gobi Desert. The
nomads are shown waiting out sandstorms, attending religious ceremonies, and
otherwise occupying themselves with duties on the farm.
The Story of the Weeping Camel
may be simple and uncomplicated, but its purity will surely warm the hearts of
all who see it. In fact, the film
was even nominated for a Best Documentary Academy Award (losing to Born
presented very much as a documentary, The
Story of the Weeping Camel is in actuality a docu-drama, with the members of
the family portraying screen variants of themselves.
The setting and events are certainly real (even those depicting the
calf's birth and its rejection by the mother), but the filmmakers have assembled
their raw footage into a distinctive structural narrative that tells a heartfelt
story about the necessity of parental love in order to survive in this harsh
The Story of the Weeping Camel may not
be a pure documentary, its creators have still captured the beauty and
uniqueness not only of the Gobi Desert's wondrous vistas and breathtaking
scenery but also seemingly within conventional aspects of daily nomadic life.
In this remote region, this film reminds us that each and every life or
birth is miraculous and precious, not to be discarded heedlessly or uncaringly.
who have enjoyed recent documentaries about the natural world such as Winged
Migration or March of the Penguins will truly appreciate The Story of the Weeping Camel.
Narratively, it is the easily the most powerful of these films, and its
universality and emotional resonance will have a profound impact that may linger
for a considerable amount of time.
a documentary, this film displays superb video quality.
Images are sharp, and colors and skin (or fur) tones are very natural in
appearance. The transfer is also
quite solid, too, with little in the way of compression defects.
in this film is minimal, and the subtitles are even sparser.
However, background ambiance does provide a true sense of life upon this
remote Gobi Desert farm, from the bleats of the sheep to the swirling winds over
the arid sand dunes to the mournful cries of the camels.
Of particular note is the song that Odgoo, the nomad mother, sings in the
end; it is haunting and timeless.
is essentially a bare-bones disc. Aside
from out-of-place trailers for The Return
of the King and Elf, there is only
a small photo gallery with just over two dozen production stills and