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Film / Khadak

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Khadak is a 2006 Belgian production, set in Mongolia, featuring an all-Mongolian cast. Bagi is a young Mongolian nomad, living out on the steppe with his mother and grandfather. He has epilepsy, and one day he has a seizure which leaves him in a coma. A shamaness brings him out of his coma. The shamaness tells his grandfather that Bagi is destined to be a shaman, but Bagi ignores the message.

Soon thereafter government officials arrive and tell the family that livestock in the area have caught a plague and that Bagi's family, and the rest of the local nomads, must leave the steppe and come to town for work. Their yurts are destroyed and their animals confiscated. Bagi's family winds up in a crumbling apartment building. The plague story turns out to be a trick used by the government to get the nomads off the land, which has been turned into an enormous coal mine.


Bagi, deeply unhappy, goes out wandering one day and finds a young lady named Zolzaya, who is stealing coal from a coal train. Bagi helps her to bag up coal, but they are both arrested. Zolzaya belongs to a group of musical performers, all of whom have been arrested and imprisoned. Bagi has another seizure, brought on by a vision of the shamaness. He is taken to a doctor and gets diagnosed with epilepsy.

Then things get really trippy. The latter portion of the movie abandons linear narrative for allegory and symbolism, and is not easily summarized here.



  • Arc Number: The opening shot is a closeup of Zolzaya as she slowly counts from one to twelve, then repeats "twelve... twelve..." several times, beginning to weep. Later, when she and Bagi are in jail with her musical troupe, she counts out numbers and they respond: "One, Brother; Two, River; Three, Dawn; Four, Water; Five, Mother; Six, Me; Seven, Potato; Eight, Darkness; Nine, Death; Ten, Wrong; Eleven, Man." Bagi's number is twelve, to which he answers "Sky". Later, as the film leaves linear narrative behind and Bagi slips into his weird dream world, the shamaness counts from one to twelve.
  • As the Good Book Says...: In the apartment community, Bagi encounters a Mongolian woman reading from The Book of Revelation, 15:6-7, "seven bowls full of the wrath of God", while a white woman (a missionary?) holds out to Bagi a green apple. It's the same kind of green apple his father was shown delivering to villagers in the countryside. It's symbolic of—something, no doubt.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: One possible interpretation of the ending. A single shot towards the end shows Bagi having collapsed, being cradled in the arms of a doctor at the hospital. That, combined with all the shots of him flitting around from place to place, and the vision where the shamaness tells him he's traveling through time, hints at this.
  • The Call Knows Where You Live: Apparently Bagi's father died because he resisted a call to become a shaman. The officials that uproot Bagi's family arrive soon after he refuses the shamaness's call. Then Bagi keeps having visions of the shamaness, who demands that he take up his calling.
  • Driven to Suicide: An old nomad lady who is living in the same sad little apartment village as Bagi jumps from her balcony.
  • Le Film Artistique: A near incomprehensible Gainax Ending, lots of dreams and visions, and a scene where Zolzaya's friend gives a dramatic reading of a poem out of nowhere.
  • Gainax Ending: See Mind Screw below.
  • Government Conspiracy: There was no plague among the livestock. It was a ploy to get the nomads off the land.
  • Green Aesop: Coal mining is bad. The focus is on the effect the relocation has on people rather than destruction of nature, but the mine sure does ruin the pristine beauty of the Mongolian steppe.
  • Magical Realism: A realistic setting, in the Mongolian steppe and the sad little apartment community, but suffused with dreams and mysticism.
  • Mind Screw: Did Zolzaya and her gang free all the animals, or were the animals slaughtered? Did Bagi die in the end? What was the deal with that scene where all the nomads were standing on the roof of their apartment buildings?
  • Psychic Link: Bagi basically senses Zolzaya, who is buried under a pile of coal on the coal train.
  • Railroad Plot: The Belgian/Mongolian film involves a group of nomadic herders who are told by the government that their livestock have all caught a plague, and will have to be destroyed, thus requiring the herders to settle down in town and go to work. It's a plot to get the herders off the land, which is then turned into an enormous mine.
  • La Résistance: Zolzaya's singing troupe, which liberates the animals from the coal plant. Maybe. By that stage it's hard to tell which parts of the movie are "real" and which are dreams or visions.
  • Rule of Symbolism: Multiple blue scarves (khatag). The burning yurt. The people on the roof. The fact that Bagi's response to Zolzaya's counting is "sky", tengri, the supreme deity of shamanic religion of the steppes. Probably more than half of the film qualifies.
  • The Scrounger: Zolzaya's brother is a "black market wizard" who comes up with fresh pig carcasses, which he uses to bribe a guard into letting her and her singing troupe go.
  • Title Drop: A non-verbal one. The khadak is a recurring visual motif. The Mongolian khatag is blue, to represent the sky; Bagi is identified with the sky in the film.
  • Witch Doctor: The shamaness, who appears to go inside Bagi's mind to pull him out of his coma, and continues to appear to him in visions afterward.


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