The Story of the Weeping Camel (Die Geschichte vom Weinenden Kamel)
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The expansive Gobi Desert in South Mongolia is the setting for this dramatic documentary about a nomadic family—and their camels. It’s springtime, and the family is helping the camels give birth to their colts. The last birth is an especially difficult one—it takes almost two days. And when the mother finally gives birth to a white colt, she immediately rejects it.

The family tries everything to bring the colt and its mother together, but they soon realize that their only hope is to go in search of a musician who can perform a magical ritual to solve the problem. So they send two young boys—Dude and Ugna—to Aimek Center, a small desert community, to find a violinist. Along the way, the boys, who travel by camel, stop to visit their family’s friends—and Ugna is introduced to computer games and cartoons on TV.

Die Geschichte vom Weinenden Kamel (or The Story of the Weeping Camel) takes a little getting used to. Despite the fact that you’ll watch camels giving birth, this movie isn’t like a National Geographic special, with translators and narrators. But it’s not like your typical Hollywood film, either. It’s a documentary, but it’s also a drama—and there’s even a bit of comedy. And it all comes together so well. As I watched, I was repeatedly amazed by the filmmakers’ luck—how it wouldn’t have come together much better had they planned and scripted it.

In this Oscar-nominated movie, there’s no fancy background music. There’s no narrator to explain what’s happening—and even the subtitles are quite sparse. You’re left to figure a lot of it out for yourself. After you get over the frustration of not always knowing what people are talking about, however, you’ll realize that it’s just not always necessary. You don’t need to know all of the small talk. What’s important is the family’s interaction—and the way that they work together.

Weeping Camel is a slow-moving film, but once you get to know the family, you’ll be captivated by them—by their story, their lifestyle, their rituals and traditions, and their family life. I loved their family sing-along—and their story-telling grandpa (complete with grandkids complaining, “We’ve already heard that one, Grandpa!”). I especially loved Ugna, the adorable little ham (who, after his journey, wants nothing more than a TV—though his brother informs him that the TV and the electricity to power it would cost a whole herd of sheep). It’s not your typical Blockbuster rental, but it’s well worth a few minutes of your time. You’ll enjoy the story—and you’ll learn something at the same time.

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