Movie Review: Story of the Weeping Camel, The

By Joan K. Widdifield, Psy.D
Movie Magazine International
ìThe Story of the Weeping Camelî transports us to the vast expanse of the Gobi Desert of Mongolia to a four-generation nomad herding family that lives much as they have for thousands of years-- connected to each other, to the rhythms of the earth and to the animals they tend.

Itís Spring, birthing season for the camels, and the last camel born isnít accepted by his mother after an especially harrowing birth. In a heartbreaking series of scenes, the mother camel actively rejects her colt, kicking and spitting at him when he tries to nurse. The colt cries plaintively for days, gazing toward his mother from afar. No matter what the family members do to help the mother-colt attachment, it doesnít work. The colt will die if his mother doesnít accept him, and the herders take this very seriously. The family sends their two young boys to a distant village to summon a musician who will perform a ritual meant to help the mother accept her baby.

By the end of the film you feel like youíve spent a cross-cultural experience with this family and you are friends with each of them. The boys are adorable; the older one, Dude, is earnest and the younger one, Guntee, is so endearing, he almost steals the show. The mother, Odgoo, is quietly captivating; her healing talents are palpable via her voice and hands.

Mongolian-born co-writer/director Davaa Byambasuren saw a documentary about the ritual when she was a child that moved her. She suggested the subject as a documentary to her co-writer/director and cinematographer Luigi Falorni. Falorni says they set out to make a ìnarrative documentary.î The actors in this film are real nomads from the Gobi who played the roles in the film that they do in life. Byambasuren said she never told the herders what to do or say; she relied on them to use their own creativity. The film combines unstaged, unrehearsed sequences with prepared re-creations of authentic experience, blending fiction and documentary techniques.

The result is a compelling gem of cinematic poetry with a universal theme. This deceptively simple story is a graceful tale with multiple layers which goes to the core of our need for connection. The film honors the deep wisdom the herders, acquired over thousands of years. One of the best things about the film is that it doesnít have an intrusive soundtrack dictating how weíre supposed to feel during each scene. The only music in ìThe Story of the Weeping Camelî is the authentic local folk music. I loved this film; it made me imagine that if everyone on the earth were required to see it, ìÖ the world will live as one.î

In San Francisco, this is Joan Widdifield for Movie Magazine International.
More Information:
Story of the Weeping Camel, The
Germany/Mongolia - 2003