The Story of the Weeping Camel (2003) / Documentary-Drama

MPAA Rated: PG for nudity
Running Time: 87 min.

Cast: Janchiv Ayurzana, Chimed Ohin, Amgaabazar Gonson, Zeveljamz Nyam, Ikhbayar Amgaabazar, Odgerel Bayusch, Enkhbulgan Ikhbayar, Uuganbaatar Ikhbayar, Guntbaatar Ikbayar, Munkhbayar Lhagvaa
Director: Byambasuren Davaa, Luigi Falorni
Screenplay: Byambasuren Davaa, Luigi Falorni

 

 

Shooting right to the top of my list of good movies about camels comes this gem, mainly a documentary, about a family of Mongolian desert shepherds and a mother/son camel relationship gone awry.   It may not have needed to be almost ninety minutes long, but it is often fascinating, so long as one can endure the prolonged periods of quiet and lack of activity throughout many scenes. 

Most of the story centers on a mother camel giving birth to a baby camel, born with white hair.  The mother is rejecting the baby and its rights to feed, so the family that tends to them is concerned for the calf's health if it cannot drink his mother's milk.  They spend many days trying to solve the problem, and try a variety of potential solutions, to no avail.  Meanwhile, the rest of the movie focuses on the daily lives of the human family, which offers a contrast to the community of camels they keep close by.

One of the many things that crossed my mind when viewing this very unique film is just how little I happen to know about camels, especially as they appear here in this film.  Looking like something completely otherworldly, it's like something straight out of a science fiction film (like Luke's early days on Tatooine in Star Wars), when obviously they are the inspiration for such creatures.  They are magnificent creatures to behold.  Even the lives of the Mongolian villagers offers up some fascinating food for thought, as this movie covers a style of living completely foreign to many people living in more technologically advanced areas of the world, where radios and televisions are an extravagant luxury, instead of the staple that they are in many households throughout the world.

In addition to the almost heart wrenching tale of a baby rejected by its own mother, The Story of the Weeping Camel is also quite beautifully photographed, with excellent sound and vivid cinematography.  While the camera is a knowing artifice in the lives of the Mongolians, they never acknowledge its existence (until the end credits), giving us a voyeuristic peek into a home that few have ever witnessed before.

Without any narrator or any explanations to guide you (only some events staged for the camera), Weeping Camel offers something very different for viewers bored with standard movie fare, and is one of those films that changes your perspective on life on earth in indelible fashion.  As mentioned previously, not everyone will gain something out of the experience, and some will not be able to endure anything past the first 10 minutes, but for those who are daring enough to try, you may be pleasantly surprised by the enjoyment to be had watching a bunch of camels try to come to terms with one another.

2005 Vince Leo