Mongolia looks like an amazing country. The colours of this film are just astounding split between the whites and yellows of the sandy desert and the blues of the sky that range from light blue to dark blue but always stunningly clear of cloud. All that said I would not want to live here. The protagonists are rugged up against the cold yet it looks like a summer’s day. The distant mountains are snow-capped and the camels are covered in their winter coats. I can only imagine the extremes of weather these desert dwellers must experience.
The Story of the Weeping Camel follows a three generation Mongolian family living far from the power lines in traditional yurts. A colt is born after his mother has laboured for two days and she rejects him. This is the crux of the film – the fight to get this mother to love the colt that hurt her so much. The whole family is affected by the desire to right the situation. The poor little colt is a white camel and cute as a button. The mumma camel on the other hand is huge! I have seen camels living wild in central Australia and they have the biggest heads. Those heads could really knock a human out if camels were inclined to head-butting bouts – luckily they are not.
They can be grumpy, they spit but watching this film makes you feel like they really are gentle giants; accepting and friendly to their humans. There are little asides from the grandfather telling the mythical tales of the camel and these as well as their treatment of the camels shows the respect traditional Mongolians must have for the creatures. After all, they provide milk, wool, a ride, a place to carry your yurt (it’s so hard to find a good place to carry your yurt right?) and meat. They are all-rounders.
Apparently, if all else fails, you can make a mother camel love her colt by singing to it and playing some violin. No-one in the family plays violin so the two young grandsons go off to the local city centre (it’s totally not a city just a conglomeration of yurts a ‘yurtglomeration’ if you will). They do have electricity though and the youngest’s transfixation with television is gorgeous – screen obsession = instant. (Yes, transfixation is a real word it just doesn’t belong in this sentence…don’t look it up it’s medical – gross.)
This film is slow and steady in its storytelling but it is beautiful in both the use of colour and landscape as well as in the delightful family we see living out there lives in an unforgiving desert. Apparently it’s spring in the Gobi Desert which I can tell by the animals giving birth section of the film but there are no blooms and there is no green. This family leads a hard life. It is a traditional life with daily blessings, singing, cups of tea and definitely no television. While what I’m about to write is truly cliched – the truth is this simple, hard life is filled with simple joys and it is a delight to watch.
Also, I can tell you without a spoiler alert that there is definitely a camel in this film and it definitely cries. I can’t tell you if mumma camel accepts the colt without a spoiler alert but – Weeping camel? Check.