After seeing the absolutely breathtaking film directed by Byambasuren Davaa, I couldn’t wait to see her next film. The Story of the Weeping CamelThe Cave of the Yellow Dog opens in New York on November 10th, 2006 and other cities thereafter, now Tartan has finally brought it to the masses on DVD!
The Cave of the Yellow Dog opens as Nansal (Nansal Batchuluun) returns from attending school to spend the summer with her family in her native Mongolia. Nansal has a sister named Nansalmaa (Nansalmaa Batchuluun) and a baby brother named Babbayar. The family is understandably excited to have Nansal home.
Her mother (Buyandulam Daramdadi) sends Nansal out to collect dung (used for fires/heating purposes). While on this assignment, she finds a stray dog in a cave. She promptly names him Zochor (Spot) and takes him home. Sister and Brother are thrilled, Mom seems somewhat pleased but Dad (Urjindorj Batchuluun) is not happy at all. He is worried that since the dog is a stray, it has spent time with wolves. The wolves could then follow Zochor’s trail to their homestead and slaughter their heard of sheep and goats. They have already lost several during the year to the wolves. Mom tries to explain that fate brought Zochor into their lives, but Dad isn’t listening.
So, Nansal’s daily purpose is to hide Zochor from her father. Her father takes an extended trip, so she can relax during that time. Time passes, the family works hard on their small homestead, tending to the daily tasks of life and to their livestock. Nansal works hard too, but she grows closer to Zochor daily and hopes she can change her Dad’s mind. As the summer grows to a close and it is time for this nomadic family to move on, will Dad make her leave Zochor behind?
The Cave of the Yellow Dog is a fascinating look at a hardworking yet simple and earnest way of life the Mongolian nomads lead. It provides a heartfelt look at a family that lives closely and feels deeply for the animals and the earth that they live upon.
There isn’t a suspenseful, loud or rushed moment in this film however, that doesn’t take away from this film’s quiet power. It is an intimate look at a lifestyle and a culture that few live today. The Mongolian nomadic lifestyle is captivating and after watching this film, it will make you want to book a flight to this gorgeous country.
Just as in The Story of Weeping Camel, The Cave of the Yellow Dog is cast by real nomadic family and not actors. So, the film is an intoxicating mix of both narrative and documentary film. The people are real, the homes are the actual homes of the participants, only a very few “situations” in the film are fiction. The family will impress you with their completely natural film presence and performance. It also must be noted that the cinematography in this film is simply stunning.
The simplicity in which the Batchuluun family lives will make you take a second look at our hurried and noise filled lives. There isn’t a television, Sony Playstation or IPod in sight, but yet these kids are happy and fulfilled. They still lie on their backs and imagine animals in the clouds. When is the last time you have seen your kids or your neighbor’s kids do this?
I can’t recommend this film enough. I was absolutely transported to another time and place while watching this exquisite film. Byambasuren Davaa and her films have taken their place in my favorite director/films list. Just do yourself a favor, get both of her films, find a place on your favorite chair/couch and escape to Mongolia for a few hours with Davaa’s graceful films.
The widescreen presentation here is a solid transfer from low budget source materials. The video is grainy and often washed out, but this is due to the source rather than any major issues with the transfer. The presentation, with the grain and murky blacks is still successful at showing the unique place in whihc the characters live.
There is a Dolby digital 5.1 and DTS mix available but don’t be fooled these mixes are about as bare bones as they come. The surround usage is minimal and the dynamic range is also minimal. Even with a bigger budget this film isn’t a bombastic type of story so you wouldn’t expect much as far as audio to start with. That said, what w do get is clean and well mixed for an easy viewing experience, if not an immersive one.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The single disc release comes in a standard amaray case with a slipcover featuring the same art as is on the actual art for the box. The artwork is a simple reproduction fo some of the original theatrical release art and it does a fine job of representing the film.
Other than that there’s a brief interview with the director and a trailer, that’s it. There’s some opportunity here for some great documentary extras that just wasn’t takne advantage of. A documentary on the culture of the characters or on the area where they live would have been fascinating.
While the DVD presentation is fairly basic the quality and uniqueness of the film almost makes up for that. Highly recommended!
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10
The Movie 10/10
The Video 7/10
The Audio 6.5/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 5/10
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10