Screened as part of NZIFF 2006
Mongolian director Byambasuren Davaa follows her Oscar-nominated documentary The Story of the Weeping Camel with an enchanting fable woven from the real lives of a family of nomads who pitch their colourful yurt on Mongolia’s grassy plains for the summer. Playing themselves without any self-consciousness, the Batchuluun family – mum, dad, six-year-old Nansal and her two tiny siblings – invite us to share in their simple routines, tending to cattle, sewing clothes and making cheese in harmony with the rhythms of nature. But tender scenes of family life are soon threatened by a pack of wolves that has already killed two of their sheep. When Nansal befriends a stray puppy she finds in a cave, it further disturbs the family’s gentle equilibrium. While Nansal’s mother sees the dog as a benevolent sign of fate’s hand at work, her father is concerned the pup grew up among wolves and will draw the wild canines to them. Has Nansal unwittingly invoked the curse of the Yellow Dog? As the Batchuluuns continue with their lives, the isolated atmosphere generates an unearthly, mythical suspense and philosophical questions arise. Davaa’s strong feeling for the intrinsic poetry of the setting and obvious delight in the Batchuluuns’ uncomplicated existence creates a moving portrait of a Mongolian family caught between the call of the city and their traditional way of life.
“The German-Mongolian co-production’s spare storytelling… delivers an affectionate but clear-eyed portrait of the powerful connection between humans and animals living close to the earth. This is a film that is uplifting and spiritual without resorting to sappiness or dogma.” — Sheri Linden, Hollywood Reporter