Where there is a will there is a way

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Story of the Weeping Camel (2003)

The Story of the Weeping Camel--directed by Mongolian director Byambasuren Davaa and Italian co-director Luigi Falorni. Distributed by THINKFilm
Release date: 6 September 2003 (2003-09-06) (Toronto Film Festival)
Nominated for an Academy Award in 2005 Best Documentary

The Story of the Weeping Camel is a "narrative documentary" featuring a real nomadic family that live in Upper Mongolia, in the Gobi desert. (Above China.)

They live in tents supported by a wood frame, richly decorated inside with so much colour, all the woven tapestries and creations of their hands (or someone else's). The camera's eye simply observes all the details of the way they live with curiosity, as we are curious. Unlike modern surroundings, their surroundings are beautiful, and these people are beautiful and richly decorated as well. They live with camels, goats and sheep. They grow up touching animals, touching their world, the woolly camels...everything is so much more tactile, and full-on that way. Even the woolly camels are so beautiful! I was fascinated to see how they lived.

The Story takes place during the seven weeks in spring in Mongolia when the camels give birth to their calves. The last camel gives birth to a white calf, a beautiful white calf, but the birth was difficult and the mother really did reject the calf. The other mothers are bonding with their calves, but the unwanted white calf just cries! The family keeps the calf alive by milking the mother and feeding the calf her mother's milk from a hollow horn, all the while gently trying to help the mother and calf reunite. The mother had been traumatized by the birth, and doesn't want any of it. They are so gentle too, and persistent-- but they don't force anything. Neither do they give up, either. Eventually they send the two young boys into a larger settlement to find a musician to help with a "Hoos" ritual to help the mother accept her calf. Also, they attempt an earlier ritual first where they bring offerings to a place they build with a post in the ground, a raised place, and I've written down exactly what they said (in English anyways, the entire film is in subtitles as they speak Mongolian). It's so cool. From DVD Chapter 7:
"We, the Mongolian people, honour nature and its spirits.
Nowadays, mankind plunders the earth more and more in search of her treasures
This drives the spirits away...that should protect us from bad weather and from diseases
We have to remember that we are not the last generation on earth...
Now we'll pray for forgiveness so that the spirits may come back"

ALL people used to think this way. According to the quick research I just did, the Mongolian people are generally Buddhist. A "Lama" led this ritual. (FYI-"Dalai" means Ocean, so "Dalai Lama" means Ocean of Wisdom.)

Also I really enjoyed what they said about TV when the young boy was asking his Dad for a TV after seeing it for the first time on his trip. His grandfather said:

"You don't need that. You'd spend the whole day watching the glass images.
That's no good."

The "ger" was so colourful, and perfect for the conditions of the place, the windstorms that arose. The film showed it naturally, you could imagine being comfortable there, living there yourself. In an interview afterwards (on the DVD) Luigi Falorni says that it was a conscious choice not to create the film of the "exotic nomad", which included the shock of butchering an animal etc, or the other common portrayal was the intellectual and critical examination of their culture, as in women's roles, etc. When the Mongolian director Byambasuren Davaa told him of the ritual that they had, the Hoos ritual to bond the mother to a calf she has rejected, he loved the simplicity of the story. I loved the way they made this documentary too.

I am just so curious about how we are meant to live, how these people live, and they were so magical in their realness. They were just natural, the mother singing to her little toddler, as I do, when I follow my instincts. All the beauty in the documentary was a beauty we find through everything. And that I also yearn for that is missing in the modern life that we have chosen.

When they came to the town, with it's material benefits, you also just lost all that colour they had, and beauty they had in their nomadic lifestyle.

I am fascinated by what I know we are missing.

Here is what looks like a Mongolian website about itself: http://www.mongoluls.net/mongolia.shtml

Ten Black Sins
To kill any animal. To steal, betray. To exploit other people. By mouth. To lie. To swear, scold or call names. To slender. By spirit and heart. To be greedy for status, money and fame. To envy. To be stingy. To be mistrustful and unsociable.

Ten White Charities
Always save the life of any animal. Be generous and openhanded. Talk with good manners. Don't gossip. Be peaceful. Don't lie -- only tell things that have really occurred. Don't say bad words. Don't deceive. Don't have a disputing heart. Don't allow a greedy spirit. Don't have a bad opinion about other people.
--from www.mongolulus.net

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