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The Story of the Weeping Camel


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Of course Movieguide called it abhorrent, spoilers1.gif it involves a buddhist ritual that works to get a mother camel to accept it's colt.

end spoilers1.gif

My wife was fond of it, I found it ok, but not terribly impressive. Some reviewers compared it to Fast Runner in its focus on a different culture, but I found the pace way to slow, with too little information about the real life of these people. However, the final scene, which I'll only reveal by PM, broke my heart.

A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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I'd planned on seeing it and reviewing it. JRobert recommended it and that's usually good enough for me.

-s.

Edited by stef

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Put this one your MUST SEE list for this year. I just got home and I'm on a high. The film builds slowly to a conclusion that is pure joy. A deeply moving, beautiful work.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 3 weeks later...

Kind of liked it. Probably for my own reasons, I found myself sitting outside the film mostly. Found the resolution scene very interesting, but it didn't move me the way it did many viewers. And the little boy, and the wife, were interesting enough onscreen. I don't regret seeing it, but neither did it do a lot for me.

I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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This film disappeared like a vapor in the night.

Gone. sad.gif

-s.

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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It's coming to Lincoln in early September. Can't wait!

"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
Opus, Twitter, Facebook

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Saw it on Friday - having worked till 8 to get our new website up and running, sped and stressed through traffic - aware in my mind that I was going for a calming experience, but unaware how ironic that all was) and got there just in time.

Wow - great film. I went with Mel (my wife) and Becca. Both of whom like the other cultures. The pacing was beautiful - meditative, but engrossing as well.

We discussed on the way back what narrative documentary had to offer. Some parts of the dialogue we decided must have been scripted, but presumably the event itself was real? Does anyone agree? I'm short on time so I'll read jrobs & JO's reviews latter. They handed out Eberts at the showing, but wasn't up to his usual high standard IMHO.

Matt

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Some parts of the dialogue we decided must have been scripted, but presumably the event itself was real? Does anyone agree?

I just saw it this evening. This is something I was wondering about as well. As far as I can remember, there's only one blatant look into the camera in the whole film (apart from the camels), from two boys who we see briefly in one of the establishing shots at the community they travel to in order to find the musician and batteries. Like most of the rest of the audience, I found the ritual scene very moving, but I felt utterly bewildered at its bizarreness and beauty more than anything else.

There's an interview with Byambasuren Davaa here about the filming.

What would have been the consequences for you as filmmakers if the ritual had failed ?

Since I started to do research on this subject, I didn't hear of any case, in which the ritual didn't work out. I spoke to a lot of nomads about this, but I never heard that it didn't work. In our case it took one day. But I know from the old nomads, that in other cases it took several days. (...)

"Art is the most passionate orgy within man's grasp."

-- John Donne

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: I found the ritual scene very moving, but I felt utterly bewildered at its

: bizarreness and beauty more than anything else.

spoilers1.gif (ben, you might want to add these to your post too)

Its funny - I found myself rationalising it to find a rational explanation of why it would have worked. Like I started with the perspective that it couldn't possibly because that ritual is 'good' & then halfway through my rationalising efforts thought "hang on Mr Starting-with-a-Biased-perspective. If this was a documentary of a Christian miracle would you be so sceptical?". Then on further reflection I thought the answer was quite possibly yes depending on it, but I found the exposure of the way my mind works interesting in itself in addition to the actual ritual itself.

Matt

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I'm wondering how people felt about the television/glass images/satelite angle that popped up throughout the film.

Any comments?

"There is, it would seem, in the dimensional scale of the world a kind of delicate meeting place between imagination and knowledge, a point, arrived at by diminishing large things and enlarging small ones, that is intrinsically artistic" - Vladimir Nabokov

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I'm wondering how people felt about the television/glass images/satelite angle that popped up throughout the film.

How we felt about them? Not quite sure what you mean.

I guess they made me feel rather sad for the family, for their way of life. They seem so content the way they are. They know their world and they know their work. They get along. They get things done. And their connection with their animals and the elements seems so intimte.

Then, here comes television... a massive distraction, an investment that does not contribute to the work they're doing. The shot of the children sitting and watching gave me a sense that their way of life will soon be over.

It's very similar to Close to Eden, in that sense; the new invaders come disguised as entertainment, conquering through technology.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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That's more or less what I meant wink.gif

"There is, it would seem, in the dimensional scale of the world a kind of delicate meeting place between imagination and knowledge, a point, arrived at by diminishing large things and enlarging small ones, that is intrinsically artistic" - Vladimir Nabokov

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Really loved this film.

The footage of the camels is remarkable. The part when the mother camel is struggling to give birth to her calf... man, that was surreal. And the glorious ending made me want to celebrate the mystery of God's creation.

In the end, though, it was the family that I really cared about. I'm not quite sure what it is, but something about spending time with these people is strangely comforting and therapeutic.

It all adds up to the most delightful and uplifting film of the year.

And that's my $.02.

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I don't think television necessarily means the end of their way of life. I mean there are adjustments to be made, but this is already the case. The battery operated radio, the jeep that brings the music teacher etc, are all relatively modern innovations. There's no reason why TV per se should force the youngest member of the family to abandon the traditional way of life anymore than the wireless forced his great grandad too. And for centuries there will have been Mongolians that will have abandoned their rural way of life for a more modern up to date way of life.

We actually wondered if the filmmakers had bought the little boy the TV as a thank you. (and how welcome it would have been!)

Matt

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I don't think television necessarily means the end of their way of life.

I'd have to side with you on this one. I don't think television necessarily means the end of their way of life. The images of modernity were quite ambiguous - on the one hand we have the referral to "glass images" and the mocking of how children play computer games "like this" *arms outstretched and thumbs-going* but the relationship that the boy had with the television was one of intrigue and amusement. I think what was interesting was that there WERE modern elements in their lives (including global culture - the baby's blanket had some internationally recognised disney-esque cartoon on it; the adidas hat, etc.), and they were fully aware of how they could add more of them to their lives, and yet they perservered with their traditions.

I loved the families' relationship with the land and nature. I found it very comforting.

"There is, it would seem, in the dimensional scale of the world a kind of delicate meeting place between imagination and knowledge, a point, arrived at by diminishing large things and enlarging small ones, that is intrinsically artistic" - Vladimir Nabokov

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  • 1 month later...

Today was the film's last day in Vancouver, so I finally saw it. Loved it. Want to read more about it to figure out just how much of it was documentary and how much of it was scripted. (My mind kept going back to a quote from one of the crew on Lawrence of Arabia, who said they knew they were in trouble if the script actually called for the camels to do any specific thing; then again, maybe Asian camels are more domesticated and less ornery than Arabian camels?)

As for the TV and the satellite ... well, there is one part in the film where a couple of guys (monks?) make some comment about spirits being driven away by how we have "plundered" the earth, and I guess the modern gizmos are indicative of all that, but it seems to me that modern (or foreign) and traditional (or native) artifacts exist side-by-side throughout this film. I like how, at the music school, we see the one student learning piano in the room next to the room where the music teacher with the healing touch is found. You can't tell me THAT's indigenous to Mongolian culture! (And I wouldn't want a world without pianos.) On the other hand, the film does END on a note that indicates this technology has arrived in a way it never did before, and that IS kind of ominous.

But like I say, no movie can ever REALLY be anti-technology. (And I'm listening to Koyaanisqatsi as I type this!) Film is too technological an artform for that.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Saw it last night. Perhaps Jeffrey's recommendation had me a little over-prepared, but the disappointment was modest and I still would call it a 'good' film, maybe 'very good'. Had to deal with some classic theater characters, though. Note to self: never go to a movie (even at an art house) the weekend that all the students get back to campus. "Hey, haven't seen you in, like, months, man. How's it hangin'? Dude, we should go see a movie!"

Anyway, some very interesting aspects to the film. Having purposely not read up on it beforehand, I rather enjoyed the tension of not quite knowing what was fact and what was story, what was acting and what was "real life". I was forced away from the "I'm watching a documentary" mode of thought and experience. The cinematography was, of course, stunning. And the baby animals...it's almost unfair. Finally, I can think of few other examples of films that so masterfully capture the essence of boyhood in a few short scenes. One scene alone, with the boy turned away from the camera, doing his manly best, was more than worth the price of admission.

As for the issue of technology and it's effect on the characters' lives, I actually found that whole angle a little distracting. I suppose I've seen too many films (and heard too many people) railing against the rape of indigenous cultures by technology. It is an important issue, but I found it distracting here, as if it had been inserted or emphasized to get a response. I think the film would have found better focus without it.

Oh, did anyone else think that the old man looked an awful lot like Yoda?

So you ladies and you gentlemen, pull your bloomers on...

-Joe Henry

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  • 2 weeks later...

FWIW, my sister, who is studying music at the University of Victoria, just saw the film and had this to say (SPOILERS):

- - -

AAAAHHH. Just saw the film. Loved it. Cried. Couldn't help it. You know when they tie the violin around the camel's hump, and you hear the sound of the wind in the strings? That is one of the coolest things ever ... [A friend] and I once took the Paraguayan harp outside on a windy day, and the sound it made made our hairs stand straight up ... I just loved the whole thing, the little boy (reminded me of [our brother] actually), the lullaby with the little girl, the grandmother making rope, the matter-of-fact everydayness of it, the sandstorm, the calm fixing of things ... and my heart broke in the middle when the colt cried for its mother. It was such a cathartic release when the mother camel cried during the ritual. I went over to your arts and faith thing and was amused to see people admitting they tried to rationalise why the ritual works. To me it's not a hard thing to believe. And I have to say that the gift for harmony (musical, cosmic, relational, whatever) is not tied to Christianity, and I see no problem with non-Christians having the ability to resolve discord (as if only Christians could be good doctors, or teachers, or musicians, or ... I think we talked about something similar when you mentioned [a friend] and her gift for "manipulating energies" or something like that - I do think such things exist and are not necessarily spiritual - or, if they are spiritual, not necessarily good/bad). But I also see how certain presuppositions could make that ritual scene look like voodoo. To me it was just beautiful and more evidence of how God makes stuff work.

... and here's another thought: has anyone pointed out that the first ceremony involving the Buddhists and the prayers and incense and milk offering and all that *didn't* work?

- - -

Speaking of harmony etc., it seems I have not referred in this thread yet to John Granger's The Hidden Key to Harry Potter or Looking for God in Harry Potter, in which he makes the distinction between "incantational" magic and "invocational" magic. "Incantational" magic involves attuning yourself to the created order -- singing along with the world, finding its harmonies, etc. -- whereas "invocational" magic involves calling on evil spirits (and Granger notes that EVERYONE in the Potter books, including the villains, practises only the "incantational" form of magic). I doubt that there is anything particularly "magical" about what happens with the camel, but if there IS, I would say it fits squarely into the "incantational" form and is essentially harmless.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 3 weeks later...

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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