The Story of the Weeping Camel

By Mark Cappuccio

Okay groovy title I know, and the premise sounds mad but here we go – the Gobi Desert, spring 2002: a family of nomadic shepherds assists the birth of their many camels. From one a rare white colt is born, the delivery is long and painful and maybe because of this its mother rejects it. But as it fights for love and milk but the mother remains aloof, unmoved. The shepherds are worried and the suggestion is to get a musician from a distant village to come and perform a ritual to help the camels bond.

I was intrigued and then massively rewarded, this film is great. Its one of those sleepers that you hear about that comes from nowhere and hopefully gets great word of mouth and then everyone is saying they discovered it. Well the story sounds dull compared to Van Helsing, I know, but god what a turkey that turned out to be. And thank heavens for films like this. It is a simple but effective story about family, love, and respect for nature and because of this it captures your imagination and dare I say it heart. I cared and worried about the family and the bloody camel whereas I laughed during Titanic – it's marvellous. It also shows you a completely different world of the nomads in the desert, the way they live, act and interact is fascinating. One of the sons is simply called 'dude': how cool is that for a family who don't own a TV or even have real running water or electricity but more love for each other and their animals than anything I've seen on film or in real life for years.

Munich film school students Byambasuren Davaa and Luigi Falorni have fashioned a unique little tale here, with simple camera work and a great fly-on-the-wall technique that lets the 'actors' breath in their roles and creates a completely believable world, so believable that this feels like a film, not a documentary: remember that while you watch, as you will not believe it. It treads a line between documentary and fiction filmmaking so well explored in recent times by films such as Touching the Void (2003), and recalls Robert Flaherty's classic piece of ethnographic filmmaking Nanook of the North (1922), one of the formative classics of the documentary genre, that had its protagonists similarly participate in rehearsed scenes, acting out their life for the camera. The Story of the Weeping Camel was a hit at the Toronto and Rotterdam film festivals and is a box office hit already in Germany, so rush out and see it this summer as an intelligent alternative from the footie and be entertained, amused and informed.
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