Monday, 21 November 2011

The Cave of the Yellow Dog

Every now and again cinema presents a gift that encourages you to stop, reflect and wonder. This film is such a gift. Described as part documentary, part drama, this film offers a precious insight into nomadic life for a family on the Mongolian steppes. We spend some time with the Batchuluun family living in their two Yurts with only their livestock, wolves and vultures for company.

The lifestyle looks harsh by comparison with Western standards but there is no sense of regret or of missing out on anything. Running water is courtesy of the stream outside. The single light bulb works - if there is enough wind to turn the blades of the generator. Yet the family, mum, dad and three young children, live their communal life very happily. The children seem happy to do chores around the encampment and even enjoy playing with dried dung!

The oldest child - Nansal, has just returned from a term at school in the big town. She shares with her sister that there the Yurts are stacked up into the sky (apartments blocks) and people even piss inside their Yurts! The younger girl can only marvel at what the town must look like.

The story presents a very gentle style of Buddhism and the narrative arc is set within a Buddhist view of the reincarnation cycle. One day Nansal finds a dog hiding in cave which she befriends and takes back to the family home. Her father fears that the dog may have been running with wolves and will inadvertently attract them to attack their herd. He tells Nansal that the dog must go. I won't spoil the outcome for you!

This gentle film offers a privileged window into another world - a world which is under threat. The viewer cannot help but reflect on the challenges this family face, their rhythm of daily work and the effect the seasons must have on their way of life. Throughout the film the lure of the big town and a different life is never far away. This was just right for a Sunday evening watch - I'll give it 7.5/10.

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