Sunday, July 5, 2009
Day 151: The Story of the Weeping Camel (2004) - Rank 4/5
It was with a broad grin that I began watching this film, because it happened to be one of those little independent art films that was the butt of numerous jokes at Baxter. Not many of these flicks make their way into the theater's lore, but those that do - such as "The Legend of 1900," "Plunkett and Macleane," "Winged Migration" or "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" - live on forever. "The Story of the Weeping Camel" hails back to the halcyon days where business was slower, but the marquee offered more variety than the latest Michael Bay fodder. A time where my boss would struggle to rid our upcoming calender of selections such as this and I, on the other hand, would wheedle to get them in, for such is the nature of our relationship. So when this film was booked, much to his chagrin, he retaliated by entering the film into the system as "The Story of the Weeping Crap." Funnier still was the fact that it appeared on the marquee in this manner, much to the dismay of the local nature lovers or those who are merely pretentious but pretend to care because it's the "hip" thing to do at all the coffee shops.
Preamble aside, after vying for the film to play, getting it in here and reading numerous positive reviews, I managed to miss it. Oh, what a stereotypical art patron I am. Or more simply put, a hypocrite. Anyway, the film is actually a delightful tale that follows the birth of a white camel, its rejection by its mother and the eventual, reluctant acceptance it receives from her after numerous prompts from their owners. The film is set in Mongolia's Gobi Desert and the cinematography makes the seemingly lifeless realm look absolutely beautiful.
The most impressive aspect of the film, to me, was the fact that the majority of the story is told nonverbally. Most nature documentaries succumb to the "need" to explain what's taking place to the audience and to anthropomorphize the animals by giving them names and making little back stories for them. Here, there is no explanation as to why the mother abandons her calf - you observe the dilemma as her owners do, and its so masterfully shot and edited, you actually get a sense of drama and conflict from this simple, animalistic situation. There are also minor focuses on the family and how they live as they work with the camels, adding an ethnographic element to the documentary that adds complexity to what could have easily been a shallow story filled with treacle and nothing more.
Watch the Trailer