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4.6 out of 5 stars
The Story Of The Weeping Camel [2004] [DVD]
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 18 March 2007
I decided to watch this film as I am going to Mongolia in the summer and read other reviews saying how well it potrays the lives of ordinary Mongols. I must say as I sat down to watch I was filled with trepidation, expecting it to be extremely boring but what unravelled was in fact a beautifully made and suprisingly affecting film.

This is not a film with a fast pace - I actually felt impatient at one point at how slowly the characters were moving - which of course immediately led me back to thinking about the differences and similarities between our lives. There is instead a very simple, base but gripping storyline and if you are interested in remote places where people live very simple lives you will enjoy the many nuances and the beautiful photography.

You become emotionally attached to the baby camel and the family very quickly and it is a real delight to see their relationships build. At the end I felt totally uplifted and even my husband, who started off not remotely interested, was grinning like a cheshire cat.
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86 of 89 people found the following review helpful
on 15 February 2005
A couple of positive reviews kindled a desire to try this little film out. After it became apparent that it wasn't going to appear too soon in any local rental establishment, I took the plunge and ordered the disk. This turns out to have been one of my very best DVD acquisitions - and if you get a copy, you'll be delighted to own it, too.
My wife was reading when I first put it on: this was actually my strategy to avoid getting blamed if, on telling her to watch it, it turned out as obscure or inaccessible as it might at first sound. She did actually ask what I was going to watch as I loaded it.
"Er, it's a little film about some Mongolian herders in the Gobi Desert and their camels, Dear..." I offered sheepishly (and not inappropriately).
"...right..." she hemmed, returning to her book. The film started.
As the credits rolled some time later, I turned from my riveted position facing the TV. My wife was staring wide-eyed at the screen, a huge smile on her face, moisture in her eyes.
"That was absolutely fantastic!" she exclaimed.
It is. Far more beautiful than any of your over-hyped Crouching Dragons, or whatever - deliriously so, in fact, and all the more exquisite for being so real. Simple and exotic at the same time, The Weeping Camel establishes how utterly alien we all are and, at the same time, how very, very similar.
It begins with astonishing, eyeball-searing landscape and lifestyle shots that look like Luke Skywalker's home planet, with creatures from Hoth imported from the sequel (were they Bantus?). The desert looks and sounds bleak, wild, glowing and glorious. Its inhabitants (and their clothes, their habitat, their food, their songs) are both ordinary and inexpressibly glamorous.
Not too many minutes in, though, and you realise that this family is just like us; only more in tune with the humans and animals with whom they cohabit. Although the central tragi-comedy is that of the abandoned calf, the story is very much about how the people live and where they might go (the young lads are campaigning for a television when they aren't crossing the desert to fetch batteries and a violinist) - and, ultimately, about the poetic, magical, musical treatment the family finds for its ailing fellow-creatures. The depiction of the forsaken calf's plight is as poignant as the very best of Disney (and actually far less manipulative). The resolution: well, you need to see and hear it for yourselves. You won't regret it.
It really is a gorgeous piece of work. And what a nice technical surprise for us, too. Having treated ourselves to digital widescreen and fab surround-sound in the Christmas aftermath, we were busy going through the spectacular back-catalogue (Gladiator, Star Wars, West Side Story and others) to "justify" the home cinema spend. Guess what! It's the Weeping Camel that makes the best sense of giving cinematic craftsmanship maximum domestic reproduction: the pictures - of a landscape with little intrinsic variation - are endlessly gorgeous. The soundscape is just awesome: the unending wind, the interior acoustics, the cries of the animals, Odgoo's (the mother's) song to her sleep-creaky daughter, the music (including violin-strings played, Aeolian Harp-style, by the wind through a beast's fur) - utterly brilliant. Inside the tent with the family, the recording is so true that the dogs and goats sounded as if they were outside the room in which we were watching (itself also swept by that constant, fluting, roaring, raucous wind).
Everything you see and hear, everything that happens - you wonder (and rejoice) at how such artists were there with perfectly-placed cameras and mikes to help us look, listen and share. Such a simple little film, such stupendous cinema!
You've probably gathered that I can't recommend this highly enough.
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51 of 53 people found the following review helpful
on 25 July 2005
The camel, we are told at the start of this film, is a trusting animal with a good heart. In the Gobi Desert - a tough, inhospitable, largely barren land - the camel is a vital means of transport, beast of burden, and vehicle of exchange for the nomadic tribes who inhabit the land.
The camel, legend has it, was once given an impressive set of antlers as reward for its loyalty and dedicated service. Unfortunately, it is a trusting animal, and loaned its antlers to a deer ... who never returned them. The camel, to this day, remains forlornly staring at a distant horizon, awaiting the deer's return, a track of tears permanently dripping from the corner of its eye.
This is a simple evocation of desert life - the desert of the twin humped Bacterian camel, not the North African / Middle Eastern variety. We follow a small family, grandparents, adult children, infant grandchild, as they forage and eke out a calm, slow paced life in the Gobi. It is a harsh environment, one which tolerates few mistakes, but the Mongolian people know it and have adapted to its demands.
Their routines are universal - forage for fuel, cook, eat, wash, sleep, keep the young children safe, encourage adventure, play and responsibility in the older ones, cherish the people you love, and treat your livestock with respect. It's a simple life, punctuated by ritual as spoonfuls of milk are cast to the four winds, asking for a blessing on the day and the daily activity.
Filmed without commentary or comment, this drama-documentary centres around the birth of a white camel and its rejection by its mother. The farmers have to try to effect a reconciliation, have to get the mother to suckle her offspring. It's a charming, engaging film, with the undercurrent of the Mongolian tribes themselves being about to lose their antlers - the television has arrived and you wonder how long they can sustain their own cultural uniqueness and independence in the face of technology and the lure of the bright lights. Are they about to give up their birthright of knowledge of the land and their environment for the anonymity of Western consumerism?
It's a very gentle, thoroughly uplifting film which I found warmly inspirational. This is reality television of a decidedly high class. You feel you do enter into the real lives of real people and follow their daily routines, albeit in an exotic environment. You can identify with their lifestyle, can appreciate the values they uphold, and can respect their unhurried approach to life. The days plod along with the steady rhythm of the camel. You can admire this lifestyle, you can envy it ... but could you get by without TV, supermarket, motor car, etc.? Lovely film ... very lovely film.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 16 November 2010
The inspiring story of a special white camel calf born in a family in a nomad tribe but rejected by his mother after a difficult birth. If the mother won't accept the calf , he will die, so the family go in search of help for him. Will they succeed?

A wonderfully moving story of relationships between people and their animals and the magical healing power of music. Beautifully crafted documentary. A real gem that I'm glad I found and have been recommending ever since.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
A wonderful documentary centered on a nomadic family in the Gobi Desert, and their herds of animals, mostly sheep, and the big woolly two-humped camels from the region. If other cultures interest you, then you will enjoy this film which shows life in the round felt and canvas "gur", a large tent-like structure that houses the entire family, with cooking facilities in the center, brightly colored painted wood and rugs, and generous hospitality to visitors. The young couple are a handsome pair, and the wife, Odgoo, has a lovely singing voice.
It's a vivid picture of the harsh, arid landscape, with the snow capped Altay Mountains in the horizon, all beautifully photographed by filmmakers Byanbasurem Davaa and Luigi Falorni, earning them a nomination for Best Documentary Feature at the 2005 Academy Awards.
The camels are fabulous, and the "star" of the film is an adorable white calf, abandoned by his mother after a very long and hard birth. A musician from a distant town is brought in to play for them, in a ritual that will make the mother care for her offspring, and it is a fantastic thing to witness. The last 30 minutes of this film are quite magical, and all of it is extremely educational.
Some may find the pacing slow, but that is because it is being seen from the complex fast track the viewer is on, compared to the steady flow of nomadic existence, and perhaps they are expecting a "movie", and not a documentary, as that is not clearly specified in the packaging, other than National Geographic being named as part of production. The slowness of the film is actually part of the experience, where the people are without distractions, and are a part of the nature around them, reading the sky for storms, and understanding their animals in a profound way.
Total running time is 87 minutes.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 1 November 2011
Beautiful film. It really gives you an insight into Mongolian life and you feel like you are living and breathing it with the families filmed in this documentary. You understand their hardship but laugh at their ability to be so content with the bare minimum. Their understanding of life goes beyond what any of us are capable of comprehending. The scene with the mother camel and her first born had me in tears. Nature is fragile and vulnerable and this documentary shows you every aspect of her. Highly recommend to anyone who wants a life changing experience.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on 20 December 2005
A quirky, Mongolian, docu-drama about a wilderness family's plight dealing with the birth of a new Camel. All at once touching, enlightening, cute, brave, sad, funny while being (or appearing to be) made simply. The family's tale is told thoughtfully and the actual development of the story is really emotional. The ceremony is absolutely riveting, surreal and yet, at the same time, thought provoking. I totally loved the film.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 1 April 2008
Breath-taking cinema. This film's desolate landscape mirrors the harsh nomadic life of a Mongolian herder family successfully etching out a living 2000m above sea level. A richly crafted storyline beautifully juxtaposes a warm and fragile past with a poignantly cold westernised future. It achieves a perfect directorial feast of visual and auditory delights. How they managed to pull this off in such an unrelenting climate and in such a remote place is mind boggling which only serves to intensify this film's charm and sense of mystery.

Any pointless concerns about the apparent impossibilty of filming such events are tenderly dissolved by the camels own incredible tears. You simply couldn't make this up and that's the point. It's real and camels don't follow scripts. Ultimately this magical cinematic gem leaves you spellbound for all the right reasons. It's raw emotional content leads you to it's undeniably spiritual conclusions.

Watch it and let your soul feed on this profoundly lyrical tale of love.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Told in the style of a documentary this understated film tells the story of a group of Mongolian herders and their attempts at getting one of their camels to bond with it's newly born colt. Superbly photographed and naturally acted by its cast, 'The Story of The Weeping Camel' slowly unfolds, revealing how three generations of people go about their simple daily lives tending their sheep and camels whilst living on the edge of modernity. The people fascinate and enchant as we observe them living their uncomplicated lives in their canvas houses in the desert. Yes, for some the story may seem unhurried and measured, but it is because of this that we are given the opportunity to watch, take in and consider what we are viewing; not something we are allowed to do when viewing most mainstream films. And what of the title? Well you have to wait till almost the end of the film for the answer to that question.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 16 May 2007
This documentary takes a little time to really get going but it is certainly worth the effort. Little by little the viewer becomes captivated by the stars of the film and entranced by the beautiful simplicity of their life.

And the story of the weeping camel? Well that is just remarkable. It will remain with me for a long time.
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