The Story Of The Weeping Camel Byambasuren Davaa and Luigi Falorni

The Story Of The Weeping Camel Byambasuren Davaa and Luigi Falorni
This hard-to-categorise documentary is not recommended to fans of breakneck pacing or sensational incidents, but the patient viewer will be gently rewarded by its window into another way of life. Centred on a group of Mongolian nomads, its main narrative line concerns the birth of a white calf to one of their camels; the mother refuses to recognise or nurse this black sheep (so to speak), igniting the crisis of how to ensure the calf's survival. The problem doesn't cause that much of stir — the tribe has other things to worry about, such as the procurement of batteries and the encroachment of television — but the issue does allow for a thread on which to hang the nomads' routines, which the filmmakers have managed to photograph in creative and arresting ways. The film does fall prey to the external focus of the ethnographic genre, which records the outward rituals without considering the personalities who perform them; I wanted to know about the distance of individuals from their social norms as much as their closeness to them. But if the film's focus is slightly narrow, there's nothing disrespectful about it and it's shot and edited in such a manner as to make us feel a less jarring existence than us jaded urbanites are used to. It may not grab hold of your sensibilities and ride them into the sunset, but it will give you a break from a form and content that aesthetically beats you up and that's refreshing enough to win my vote. That camel's doing fine, by the way, though by the end that's hardly the point. The only extra is a photo gallery whose images sadly pale in comparison to those in the film. (MGM)