On the Mongolian steppes, one woman’s cultural and sexual identity is reckoned with in Uisenma Borchu’s fierce, hypnotic drama of two sisters coming to terms with their expression of heritage and independence.
Mongolian-born, German-based filmmaker Uisenma Borchu is the star, writer and director of Black Milk, her deeply personal second feature. She plays Wessi, an immigrant disillusioned with her life in Germany, who returns to her nomadic homeland to visit her sister Ossi. Though overjoyed to be reunited, it does not take long for the more independent-minded Wessi to clash with her sibling over the traditions of her nomadic heritage that she left behind. As Wessi becomes attracted to a mysterious older man also living on the steppes, her sexual candour is both threatening and fascinating to the pregnant, more conservative Ossi. Meanwhile, the tribal elders are finding Wessi’s free-spirit something they need to bring under control.
Working with a largely non-professional cast, Borchu examines the complexities of reconciling feminism, culture and tradition with brutal honesty (be warned: there are graphic scenes of animal slaughter) and mythical whimsy. Blending realism and fantasy with sharp editing, Black Milk provides no easy answers, but leaves little doubt on how the two sisters, brilliantly played by Borchu and Gunsmaa Tsogzol, will always be there to love, support and inspire each other. — Vicci Ho
About the Filmmaker
Originally from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, Uisenma Borchu moved with her family to East Germany in 1988. Her debut film Don’t Look at Me That Way (2015) was lauded at the Bavarian Film Awards, and the Munich and Taipei film festivals. Black Milk is her second feature.