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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 female camels to deliver their young. The last female delivers a calf who is startlingly white-colored. Whether it be the strange color of her baby, or the exceptionally difficult delivery — apparently, it took two days for the calf to be born — the mother shows no affection to her young, and, most importantly, will not let it nurse. This is a problem, because without mother's milk, the baby 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 this crisis, 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 cow camel delivering a calf 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.
  • 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."
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  • 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 camel to Ugna playing with a puppy.
  • Music Soothes the Savage Beast: After the mother camel won't nurse her baby, and bottle-feeding proves insufficient, 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 mother camel. It works, as afterwards she stands still and lets the calf nurse.
  • Parental Neglect: Mama camel deliberately avoids her young, trotting away when he approaches, never standing still to let him suckle.
  • 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 baby camel and its mother, who were named Botok and Ingen Temee, respectively.

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