A newborn camel is rejected by its mother and a Mongolian herding family scrambles to rectify the situation in Byambasuren Davaa and Luigi Falorni's debut feature, part ethnographic study and part fable. Inspired by the films of Robert Flaherty, who combined pure documentary footage with staged sequences, the filmmakers recruited a real multigenerational family of nomadic herders and recorded their daily lives in the harsh Gobi desert while improvising a preconceived story involving a camel-birthing drama and a traditional music ritual. Odgoo and Ikchee share three yurts (traditional animal-skin tents) with their parents, grandparents and children, sons Dude, Ugna (who look to be roughly 12 and 7 years old, respectively) and Guntee, a toddler. Their camp is some 30 miles from the nearest settlement, and they live in close physical and psychological proximity to the animals whose milk and wool sustain them. During calving season, everything goes well until one young camel undergoes an unusually arduous labor and wants nothing to do with the gangly, mewling creature she delivers. Family members try to bottle feed the white calf while searching for a solution to the fractured bond between the animals. Eventually Dude and Ugna are dispatched to the Aimak Center, a school of traditional Mongolian music and dance, to find a violinist (Munkhbayar Lhagvaa) who can accompany a Hoos ceremony — "hoos" being a nonsense word said to soothe distressed camels. While not as aggressively anthropomorphized as such vintage Disney family fare as CHARLIE, THE LONESOME COUGAR (1967), Davaa and Falorni's film does suggest that camels have inner lives as rich and complicated as the human beings with whom they live in such intimate proximity. But they're also wholly camels, matted, goopy-eyed, gritty with sand and quick to knee an adorable calf in the snout when its demands become annoying.
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- Released: 2004
- Rating: PG
- Review: A newborn camel is rejected by its mother and a Mongolian herding family scrambles to rectify the situation in Byambasuren Davaa and Luigi Falorni's debut feature, part ethnographic study and part fable. Inspired by the films of Robert Flaherty, who combin… (more)