The Story of the Weeping Camel
Autumn 2004 Edge series
Sunday, November 28, 2004 at 7:00pm
Rated NR ·
An Official Selection of the 2003 Toronto International Film Festival and a popular favourite, The Story of the Weeping Camel is an unforgettable, incredibly moving documentary made by film students from Munich, Germany.
In springtime, a family of nomadic shepherds in the Gobi Desert, South Mongolia assists in the births of their camel herd. One of the camels has an excruciatingly difficult delivery but, with help from the family, out comes a rare white calf. Despite the efforts of the shepherds, the mother rejects the newborn, coldly refusing it the milk it needs to survive. In accordance with an ancient ritual, a musician is summoned froma distant village – the calf’s last hope.
The Story of the Weeping Camel (and there is a weeping camel) captures the majesty of a way of life that – if it still exists at all – we can only assume is not long for this world. This is delicate filmmaking with a keen sense of visual storytelling, the narrative emerging quite organically from the daily life of the Mongolian family. There is little dialogue, yet the evocative aural landscape captured here – particularly the yearning cries of the calf – adds further resonance, as does the accumulation of brief moments of intimacy, both human and animal.
The filmmakers resist the temptation to over-explain the significance of events, as when the family’s young son goes into a “real village” and is exposed to a television for the very first time. At every moment of the film, its extraordinary images demand our attention. The ultimate effect is a transfixing kind of escapism, in the best sense of that often devalued act. A rare find, The Story of the Weeping Camel is bound to be much discussed among those who venture to see it.