The Story of the Weeping Camel


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Rating: PG

Janchiv Ayurzana as Janchiv
Chimed Ohin as Chimed
Amgaabazar Gonson as Amgaa
Zeveljamz Nyam as Zevel
Ikhbayar Amgaabazar as Ikchee
Odgerel Ayusch as Odgoo
Enkhbulgan Ikhbayar as Dude
Uuganbaatar Ikhbayar as Ugna
Guntbaatar Ikhbayar as Guntee
Munkhbayar Lhagvaa as Munkbayar, violin teacher
Ariunjargal Adiya as Teacher’s Assistant
Dogo Roljav as Relative Aimak I
Chuluunzezeg Gur as Relative Aimak II

Special Features:
Legends of the Gobi featurette

Photo Gallery

Teachers’ Guide

Other Info:
Widescreen (2.35:1) and Fullscreen
Dolby Digital Surround Sound
French and Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 87 Minutes

This film was originally released in 2003. The following is the official description of the movie:

“Set in contemporary Mongolia, the film explores the interwoven destinies of a family of herders and the animals they raise in their desert home, specifically a vulnerable baby camel who cries for the attentions of its mother. Without its mother’s milk, the little camel will not survive, so, in accordance with an ancient ritual, a musician is summoned from a far-off village to perform a ceremony that is meant to coax the mother into nursing her baby. While trying to bring the mother and baby camel together, the children of the family are exposed to long-standing tradition as well as modern day concepts for the very first time, including such worldly fascinations as television.”

The Story of the Weeping Camel is rated PG for some mild thematic content.

The Movie:
If you like nature and cultural documentaries, then you’ll really enjoy The Story of the Weeping Camel. And it’s only fitting since it is presented by National Geographic. The film not only focuses on Mongolian camels, but it focuses even more on the herdsmen living in the desert making their living tending to the sheep, camels, and goats. It’s really two documentaries in one.

The parts focusing on the camels are interesting. You see a mother camel reject a young colt and the herdsmen having to tend to the colt and get the mother to nurse it. It’s an intriguing look at animal behavior. Your heart breaks a little as you see the camel try to follow the mother leaving it behind. However, there’s a rather graphic segment showing the colt being born. If you want to see minutes on end of baby camel legs hanging out of a mother camel’s backside then this is for you. It was a little more than I wanted to see and a little more than I was ready to explain to young children.

The rest of the documentary highlights the Mongolian shepherds. It focuses mainly on one family. You see their daily life, their routine chores, and more. What I found interesting was the mixture of old and new ways. They live in traditional homes, but they use modern pots and pans. They wear traditional clothing but the kid wears an Addidas cap. They do rituals for the spirits for help but they also watch television and use radios. It’s an interesting blend of old and new, but there isn’t really a clash. They retain their old ways while incorporating new ones. It’s also interesting to see how similar the family dynamic is even in this vastly different culture. Kids throw temper tantrums, want video games, and argue with each other no matter where in the world they are.

As interesting as the film is, there are long stretches where it gets boring. Children will have a hard time sitting through it all the way. The scenery is quite interesting though and the cinematography is impressive.

The Extras:
The DVD I had to review didn’t include any bonus features beyond the photo gallery, but it is advertised as also including the Legends of the Gobi featurette and a Teachers’ Guide.

The Bottom Line:
The Story of the Weeping Camel will probably be most enjoyed by those that read National Geographic and those that watch nature and cultural documentaries. It’s an interesting look at Mongolian society.