Do camels have a soul? The Story of the Weeping Camel

Weeping camel

The 90th Academy Awards ceremony, presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), honored the best films of 2017 and took place at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles. This year’s Oscar night was held on March 4, 2018, rather than its usual late-February date to avoid conflicting with the 2018 Winter Olympics.

I would like to recall that the Mongolian film also was once nominated for the Oscar. This happened 13 years ago at the 77th Academy Awards ceremony. In 2005, the Mongolian film ‘The Story of the Weeping Camel’ was among the five best documentary feature films nominated for an Oscar at the 77th Academy Awards.

But on the stage of the Kodak Theater, Leonardo di Caprio presented the Oscar statuette to the filmmakers of the Born Into Brothels: Calcutta’s Red Light Kids, which touched upon the actual topic of mother prostitutes.

Weeping camel

The Story of the Weeping Camel is a Mongolian-German docudrama made by ThinkFilm. After its international release in 2004, the 87 minute documentary captivated the hearts of many moviegoers and received positive reviews from critics around the world. The film was directed by Mongolian young woman Byambasuren Davaa and Italian young man Luigi Falorni, 33-year-old graduate of the Munich Film School.

Determined to combine the observation techniques of documentary with a bit of improvised drama, they made a “narrative documentary” that shows real people in real places and essentially has them play themselves in a story inspired by their lives.

Bactrian camel in Gobi evening

The story takes place during a windy spring and shows a daily life of multigenerational herding family in the Gobi Desert during the calving season. Their camel gives a birth to a rare white colt and rejects her baby. A newborn cries when the mother camel repeatedly refuses to feed her. The colt won’t survive long, unless fed.

Playing morin khuue

When the bottle-feeding fails, the family decides to resolve the crisis in a traditional way. They invites musician, who plays morin khuur (two stringed Mongolian faddle). When the musician begins to play lyrical melody the mother camel becomes enchanted. Then she begins nursing her colt with dump eyes. At the end of the movie the mother camel cries in big tears to the mysterious strains of the morin khuur.

This film is about people, who live close to the nature and to the animals and can listen and understand the language of mother nature. The Story of the Weeping Camel shows clearly eternal bond between human beings and animals. Someone (except herdsmen) may surprisingly ask after seeing this docudrama: “Do camels have a soul?”

Mongolians believe that the father of humanity is the sky and the mother is the earth. If so, destroying the nature we are rejecting our mother-earth. In this case, we ask another question. Does a human have a soul?

Reviews of 2004:

“No movie since The Black Stallion has achieved a comparable, uncanny sensation of intimacy with particular animals. The Story of the Weeping Camel deserves to become uniquely cherished documentary classic.”Gary Arnold, The Washington Times.

“It’s astonishing, really, just how resonant and universal the young camel’s struggle for its mother’s affection is, not to mention how easily viewers can ascribe human emotions to the camels’ behavior.Peter Debruge, Premiere Magazine.

“It’s a sad, funny, sometimes brutal look at the way in which the animal world and human world occasionally intersect to their mutual benefit.”Derek Elley, Variety.

“Transcends genre to become a deeply affecting allegory about the importance of patience and acceptance.” Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post.

“Stately and slow, the human and animal protagonists win us over in this plainspoken, non-manipulative film.”Donald J. Levit, Reeltalk Movie Reviews.

“An unusual, captivating and crowd-pleasing semi-documentary.”Lou Lumenick, The New York Post.

“This wonderful Mongolian film is a total delight from start to finish; it speaks volumes about ties that bind human beings and animals together.” Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, The Spirituality and Health.

“The title of this movie isn’t a metaphor. The filmmakers have actually made a movie about a pale and needy newborn camel whose mother ignores it.”Elvis Mitchell, The New York Times.

Weeping camel

The Story of the Weeping Camel

Written and Directed by Byambasuren Davaa and Luigi Falorni

Produced by Tobias Siebert

Starring Janchiv Ayurzana, Chimed Ohin, Amgaabazar Gonson

Music by Marcel Leniz, Marc Riedinger and Choigiw Sangidorj

Cinematography by Luigi FalorniEdited by Anja Pohl

Production company-Mongolkino

Distributed by Prokino Filmverlieh (Germany), New Yorker Films, ThinkFilm (USA)

Release date-6 September 2003 (Toronto), 8 January 2004 (Germany)

Running time-87 minutes

Country-Mongolia, Germany

Language-Mongolian

Cumulative Worldwide Gross-$20,000,000

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