The last of the family's double-humped, reddish-brown camels to give birth has a rough time of it, with two days of partial-breach labor before the nomads help her deliver a rare white colt. No doubt traumatized by the ordeal, the first-time mother refuses to nurse her baby and roundly rejects its every entreaty. The calm, attentive efforts of the nomads also fail, prompting plans for a healing ritual. The ceremony itself, which involves a two-stringed, boxlike violin and the beautiful voice of young woman Odgoo, is suspenseful and deeply moving.
"Weeping Camel" is all the more powerful for not being explained. Unrelieved by the reassuring voiceover narration we've grown accustomed to in natural history films, the cries of the rejected colt play out in sequences of almost unbearable anguish--and hope. The two young directors trust in their subjects' intrinsic appeal and let the poetry unfold: Straightforward cinematography doesn't shy away from the open spaces and silences of the wind-scrubbed Gobi Desert, and the editing respects the slow rhythms of life in the remote expanse. There's gentle humor, too, in family interactions, and when Grandpa dispatches sullen teen Dude and youngster Ugna to the nearest town to find a musician, they arrive in the relatively bustling Aimak Center, with its satellite dishes, lampposts and motorcycles, like two pioneer ranchers riding into Dodge. Precocious Ugna steals scenes from everyone except Ingen Temee and Botok, the mother and baby camel who are the undisputed, utterly compelling stars of this film. Directed by Byambasuren Davaa and Luigi Falorni. Produced by Tobias N. Siebert. A ThinkFilm release. Narrative documentary. Mongolian-language; subtitled. Rated PG for some mild thematic content. Running time: 91 min