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...a sweatshop of moxie

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Weeping Camel

Don't tell Joan Rivers about Botok

I found "The Story of the Weeping Camel" fascinating.

This film is really a docudrama, and one which feels like a dramatic narrative film, rather than a documentary with dramatic force.

Note that the difference can be felt in terms of slightly staged or recreated events, which one felt had happened, even though it was only later I found out was so. The important bit is that you felt it was too polished for it to be a simple account of a nomadic family in Mongolia who tries to reconcile a rare white, colt camel -- named Botok -- and its mother, after the latter rejects her child.

You might too, if you saw hooves coming out of your uterus.

What makes this docudrama worthy of being watched is:

  • Firstly, how many films on Mongolia are out there? Especially that do not include references to Genghis Khan and his Hunnish tribes. Not many, my friends. This is it.
  • Secondly, the translation of the Mongolian is sparse to the point of being a "silent" film. It gives it an Aesop's Fables quality, of storytelling and oral tradition, which to us unaccustomed to Mongolian culture anyway, seems mesmeric. It forces you to pay attention and you find your internal monologue oddly quiet, as you just OBSERVE.

It's easy to look at this documentary as a kind of latter-day Nanook of the North, a stunning work from 1922, which, when I saw it, changed my life forever, and how I see the film medium.

The majesty is there, but instead of the incisive force of a little-known subject matter, this version is more lyrical, more gentle.

Quite possibly, though, the very last scene, which comes after the documentary ends, and the title credits have begun, ruins the entire project. I'm enough of a late-Twentieth-Century product to shudder at something precious and timeless being lost with the introduction of modernity. Once you make that step, you can never go back to the way it was. Ever.

Watch it, and then come back and let me know if you liked the Weeping Camel.


  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger JSU, at Wed Feb 16, 02:40:00 pm GMT-5  

  • The NY Sun review has this classic first line:

    If you like camels — especially sad ones — "The Story of the Weeping Camel" should not disappoint.Now who could argue with that?

    By Blogger JSU, at Wed Feb 16, 02:42:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Agree. Very interesting film/documental. Worth to watch it.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Feb 16, 05:17:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Hey JSU and Josepie.

    Yes. Hilarious first line by the NY Sun, although the rest of the review was llame. (Sorry)

    I have to say, I've read more negative reviews of this documentary since last I posted yesterday, than positive ones.

    Maybe people didn't get it, but they thought it varied from a travellogue of Mongolia to a prefab documentary of little worth, probably because if it's not Michael Moore-approved, it's not a documentary!

    So I'm being sarcastic, but really, there are a lot of negative reviews on IMDB. The toughest were from Mongolians themselves. Sheesh, what do people want? Gone with the Wind in Mongolian?

    This was a movingly lyrical piece in no way sad or opportunistic.

    Sometimes people make you wonder.

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Wed Feb 16, 09:51:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Have you seen a movie called URGA?

    I LOVE IT.

    By Anonymous SHUSSBAR, at Fri Feb 25, 12:44:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Ooh, Urga! Sounds wonderful, Shussy. And the picky IMDB'ers gave it 7.5 stars out of 10, so along with your recommendation, it seems encouraging.

    I have the Blockbusters Moviepass (2 DVDs out at any time), so I will go check that out in my local BB immediately. If not, there are many foreign films special video stores around. I'm sure they will have it.


    By Blogger vbspurs, at Fri Feb 25, 01:46:00 pm GMT-5  

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