The follow-up from the same director, The Cave of the Yellow Dog has taken on cult status here in TC Towers, for being about the cutest movie ever made - at least, not starring Dakota Fanning. This is not quite at the same level, but does a similarly impressive job of capturing the startling emptiness of the Mongolian landscape, and the simple life of a herder family who live there. When one of their camels rejects her new-born calf, the family send two young sons to the nearest town (though both "near" and "town" are clearly relative!) to find a musician needed for a ritual designed to bring the two animals together. [At first, I thought there was some wildly inappropriate subtitling, but it turns out the son's name actually is "Dude."]
This is a simple film, and unfolds at a very relaxed pace - it's no surprise to learn National Geographic had a hand in its production, and the cinematography is appropriately lush. It's a study in contrasts and parallels: the herders' family ties versus those of the camel, and the pull felt, especially by youngest son Ugna, towards the modern world. He sees television for the first time and is entranced by it - you sense the life depicted here may be extinct in a generation. Yet in moments, despite the huge differences, a basic humanity comes through. Parents look at children, or husbands wives, the same the world over. Slow? Undeniably. Deliberate might be the better word though, since this has no aspirations to be an action-packed thrill-fest. If you're in the right mood, however, it works very well.