During a recent slump in the springtime schedule, I thought I would finally take it upon myself to watch four documentaries I had heard about that feature Mongolia. What better way to look at these documentaries than in Mongolia itself? These opinions are mine and mine alone, and I encourage you to watch the documentaries yourself and make your own judgements! This is part one. Read part two here.
- The Horse Boy (2008)
Basic Premise: Rowan, a young boy with autism, is prone to tantrums and fits, and has a difficult time socializing, causing his parents worry. Their lives are difficult to manage with Rowan’s autism. The father, a journalist who studied shamanistic healing in Africa, decides to take Rowan to Mongolia after seeing Rowan have a positive experience with horses. The documentary follows their journey from UB to Lake Shaga and eventually to the taiga where the Reindeer People, and the strongest shaman in Mongolia, reside.
What I liked: At the end, the father acknowledges that his son was not cured of autism, merely that his worst tantrums and physical symptoms were improved upon. I was afraid the movie would take a hard turn into peddling a cure-all for autism, but it didn’t. It merely said that equestrian therapy can help autistic individuals with some of their symptoms.
What I disliked: The continual narration dragged me down a bit. We can see what’s going on; we don’t need a disembodied voice to tell us what we can see. There were a few parts where it felt like the narrative was dragging a bit as well towards the middle of the film as well.
What can you learn about Mongolia: You get a very cursory glance of herding life and shamanism, but Mongolia really serves as more of a backdrop for the story of Rowan. This is a story about a family and how they were trying to help their autistic child, not about Mongolia.
- The Story of The Weeping Camel (2003)
Basic Premise: A herder family in the Gobi helps give birth to a white camel calf. Unfortunately, the mother rejects the calf. The film follows the life of the family and how they deal with the estranged camel pair.
What I liked: The cinematography is awesome: so many beautiful shots of the Gobi and the animals really made the film a joy to watch. The mood it captures is very elegant; I’m sure this will be one of the films I can re-watch later, reminisce during, and go “Yeah, that’s definitely Mongolia.”
What I disliked: Not much on this one. The story is driven by the camels, but that plot isn’t in the forefront the entire film. If you’re looking for a lot of time with the camels, you will walk away disappointed.
What can you learn about Mongolia: So much! Gobi life and herding life are all over the place. You get to see this family and their daily routines, customs, and music all throughout the film. Definitely a good look into a segment of Mongolian life.