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Film / The Story of the Weeping Camel

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The Story of the Weeping Camel (Ингэн нулимс, "Ingen Nulems", Tears of the Camel) is a 2003 international co-production between Germany and Mongolia. It was co-directed by Byambasuren Davaa and Luigi Falorni.

An extended family of nomadic shepherds lives in the waste of Mongolia's Gobi Desert. Besides the sheep, their other material asset is their herd of camels, which they use as transportation and beasts of burden. The season comes for the mare camels to deliver their young. The last mare delivers a colt which is startlingly white-colored. Whether it be the strange color of her baby, or the exceptionally difficult delivery—apparently it took the mare two days to deliver the colt—the mare shows no affection to the colt and, most importantly, will not let it nurse. This is a problem, because without mother's milk the colt will starve to death, and the loss of a camel would be a severe dent to the family's assets.

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Meanwhile, while the family has to figure out how to deal with the mother and the colt, they still have to deal with all the challenges of nomadic life in Central Asia, like sandstorms, bathing in buckets, and herding a flock of sheep.


Tropes:

  • Based on a True Story: Although the filmmakers admitted to crafting some scenes of the family's domestic life, they claimed the central conflict of the mare delivering a colt and then failing to bond with it was filmed as it happened.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Right off the bat, as the film opens with an old man starting a fire and then looking at the camera to tell a story about why the camel doesn't have antlers.
  • Call-Back: The last scene shows Ugna getting his TV (powered by a solar panel, it seems), as Dude tries to position a satellite to catch the signal.
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  • Cross-Cultural Kerfluffle: The teen boy who is sent off to the village to get a musician, as well as fetch other necessities, is called "Dude". It's pronounced with two syllables, "doo-duh."
  • Deadly Dust Storm: A real-life version, as the clan has to batten down their yurts when a sandstorm kicks up. A toddler is bothered by the noise. When the storm passes one of the women brushes sand off the top of her yurt.
  • Documentary: A fly-on-the-wall type, eschewing narration or talking heads.
  • Down on the Farm: The nomadic equivalent thereof, as a herding family lives life out in the desert, without electricity or running water.
  • "Just So" Story: Opens with an old man telling a story about why camels don't have antlers. It turns out that once upon a time a camel lent his antlers to a deer, who made off with them.
  • Match Cut:
    • From one of the old men hammering a stake into a ground to a toddler hammering on a pot lid with a spoon.
    • From one of the younger women comforting the white colt to Ugna playing with a puppy.
  • Music Soothes the Savage Beast: After the mare won't nurse, and bottle-feeding the colt fails, the family decides they have to perform a "hoos" ceremony. They bring a musician, who plays music on his Morin khuur, a stringed instrument resembling a fiddle. One of the women sings to the mare. It works, as afterwards the mare stands still and lets the colt nurse.
  • Parental Neglect: The mare deliberately avoids the colt, trotting away when the colt approaches, never standing still to let the colt nurse.
  • Shout-Out: Some kids in a yurt with electricity on the edge of a village are watching Russian cartoon Nu, Pogodi!.
  • Video Credits: Ends with all the members of the family posing in front of the camera while their names pop up. The last to be shown are the mare and her colt, who were named Ingen Temee and Botok, respectively.
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