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The 2010 Glen Workshop In Santa Fe, NM

The Story of the Weeping Camel
Movie Poster for Carl Theodor Dreyer's Ordet
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The Story of the Weeping Camel

Here’s the drama: A baby camel is born, and the mother rejects it. Sounds unimpressive, but filmmakers Byambasuren Davaa and Luigi Falorni found quite a story in southern Mongolia, and they caught it with their cameras.

A family living in a close-knit series of beautifully decorated tents—yurts—endure blasting sandstorms and searing heat, raising sheep, goats, and camels. The camels, of course, steal the show. They’re strangely beautiful with their thick golden manes and huge dark eyes; they’re often amusing and sometimes piercingly eloquent.

But there’s something deeply therapeutic about spending time with this multi-generational clan. At first, their life seems simple. Then, as were introduced to hardships that come at them from within and without, we come to see that their existence is fragile and endangered.

For all of the storms they suffer, a child’s discovery of television during a necessary trip into town may be the biggest threat of to all to his family’s tradition. It will be hard for most viewers to believe that this kind of life continues today. And it will be painfully clear that it may not last much longer.

The film culminates in a way I must take care not to spoil. Suffice it to say that the family is forced to take drastic measures out of concern for the poor, abandoned baby camel. Their solution touches something of the miraculous, suggesting that when the world is out of balance, what we need is close attention to beauty, which can bring our dissonant internal instruments back into tune, and draw us closer to what we were meant to be.

—Jeffrey Overstreet

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