Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Mother's Tears

Today I watched the documentary, The Story of the Weeping Camel - released 2004, a film festival darling and Oscar-nominated. It is a beautiful, deserving film. Set in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia, the story takes a slice out of the life of a nomadic shepherd family who face a particular challenge one Spring when a new mother Bactrian Camel rejects her white colt after a difficult birth.

Sparse dialogue and harsh landscape provide the perfect backdrop for the gentleness and consumate efficiency of the human family to shine through onscreen. These are people 'in their element' - great grandfather, grandparents, parents, tween, child and baby intermingle with the animals they herd, with neighbours and visitors, with the landscape, with the wind storms - at ease, with a companionable generosity and a traditional order that is peaceful and productive. There is no violence in this film. No depression. Nothing neurotic.

The efforts to coax and press the recalcitrant camel mother into accepting her ailing colt include a sacred ceremony where the shaman speaks of so much damage done to the Earth by humans that the Spirits which have always protected the herders from adverse weather and circumstances have withdrawn. He leads them in a prayer of asking for forgiveness, and they pray sincerely even though they are not the people doing the damage. They are not victims blaming someone or something else, they are active participants in the healing of the world.
However, the prayers are not enough for this camel Mum. She continues to refuse her colt milk and tenderness.

The family then send their two young sons on a journey to find a musician in the nearest permanent settlement. The youngest boy encounters television and market-place selling - all enthralling to him in comparison to the organic life he knows.
The boys return with a Morin Khuur player willing to perform the Hoos ritual. As the story goes, if the camel Mother weeps in response to the music she will accept her baby.

This camel weeps.

But it's not at all a story about whether or not the creature will weep. We knew it would from the film's title. It is a story about people who are exquisitely tuned to Life, for whom doing all one can, practically and mystically, is unquestioningly just what one does to the save the life of one vulnerable animal. The Story of the Weeping Camel offers a pertinent and pressing theme for the wasteful and war-mongering modern 21st Century dwellers - that there is innate worth in every life. Not financial worth. But Worth. The wondrous human Mum notes that the beleaguered colt is beautiful.

Beautiful Life.

That's worth a lot.

The movie was directed and written by Byambasuren Davaa and Luigi Falorni when they were film students.

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