Monday, February 18, 2008

"The Story of the Weeping Camel"

Enough of politics for the moment. Let's talk movies. Ellie and I Netflixed "The Story of the Weeping Camel" last week and enjoyed it immensely. What a treat! It's not about camels. Well, on partly. Mostly it's about this extraordinary Mongolian family of sheep- and goat-herders in the Gobi desert, who live in circumstances that we Americans, with our material well-being and our creature comforts, can scarcely imagine. Here's their little nest of yurts...

(is that the right term for these circular dwellings put together out of skins and wooden supports and camel-hair ropes?) in an environment as remote inhospitable as any I could dream of. And yet the interior is rich with carpets, tapestries, and all kinds of beautifully

made utilitarian artifacts and religious objects. Here, as you see, the family gather over tea, four generations of them so far as I could tell, from ancient, hoary great-grandparents to sweet-faced children. I imagine--what else can I do?--that they are not poor by the standards of their own society. They have plenty of livestock and can afford, so it seems at the end, a black and white television set with a satellite dish outside their home. Is this a suggestion, I wonder, at the end of the film, of the dangers inherent in the encroachment of technology on what must be one of the last enclaves of its kind on earth? Their distant neighbors in "town", a long camel's ride from their encampment, have motorcycles, cars, trucks, computer games...

Well, now, the story concerns the difficult birth of a white calf to one of their camels, who soon rejects his every advance to her, whether for food or affection. She turns him away, sulkily, and refuses the family's patient and loving efforts to bring mother and calf together. A heartless mom, indeed. In desperation, the family finally settle on a remedy and send their two young sons off on camel-back to the big city in search of a skilled musician! Just the thing to cure an an emotionally deficient camel! When he arrives on the scene, he readily grasps the situation and woos the mother camel with his two-stringed instrument,

until she finally weakens and allows her calf to suckle. Her tears at the eventual reunion, we suppose, are of repentance for her earlier intransigeance. A touching scene, for those of us who have soft hearts for other species and tend to humanize them. Here they are, reunited:

The wonderful part about this movie, though, is not the sentimental "story" at the heart of it, but rather the humanity of the people around its edges. They remind us that we are pleased to call our "civilization" has cost us dearly in terms of our relationship with the earth that nurtures us, with our fellow beings--both animal and human--and with that great, mysterious spirit that informs it all. Where we are scattered, individualistic, ego-centric, the people we meet in this film share a powerful bond of common interest: call it survival, call it love. They share everything. And the hardship of their lives serves to give them a strength and wisdom and clarity of purpose that is hard to find in our society, while the paucity of material goods provides little room for selfishness or greed. It's a film that has much to offer in understanding the best about our human species, along with a great deal of sadness that the last of this wisdom is so rapidly giving way to "progress."


MandT said...

It was a wonderful film!

Richard said...

This stirs up one of my longstanding views, that what we consider as progress may not actually be what we think it is.

Is what we're gaining worth the cost and what have we actually gained?

thailandchani said...

I got this movie at your recommendation. It was indeed very good and re-emphasizes what can be accomplished with community effort.

My heart sank at the end with the satellite dish and the television.

I really did enjoy the movie though. :)