Diversity film shows unity of family, community in Gobi Desert to save a camel

Emily Drinks January 22, 2015 0

On Thursday, Jan. 15, Elizabethtown College showed the documentary “The Story of the Weeping Camel,” a German film set in Mongolia.

Louise Hyder-Darlington, the access services librarian, hosted the event. Hyder-Darlington was introduced to the film by a friend who worked in the Peace Corps. Hyder-Darlington said that her friend worked in the same area of Mongolia as the film took place, which is one the few areas left still maintaining its traditions and unity. She explained that the purpose of showing global films was to introduce students to the wealth and complexity of international films. She also said that she wanted students to have the chance to experience these films with other students. “Films are meant to be experienced communally,” Hyder-Darlington said, adding that students should be able to laugh about them with each other as well as discuss the films.

“The Weeping Camel,” which is based on a true story, centers on a family in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert. The family consists of three generations, and they rely on raising camels, sheep and goats for a living. The conflict in the story arises when the last camel gives birth to a calf that season. The calf was unusual because not only was it larger than the average calf, but it was also white. The mother rejects the calf.

The family then tries to keep the calf alive by first waiting to see if the mother will eventually take to the calf, but when that does not happen, they then attempt to feed it themselves. The calf rejects the milk given to it by the nomadic family, and they are then forced to seek other methods to keep the calf alive.

Next, the family tries to establish a bond between the mother and calf by having a group of lamas, the spiritual leaders of the area, perform a dough ritual for the camel, calf and family. The ritual demonstrates Mongolian tradition in that it takes place with members of the community and a number of lamas in a sacred place. In the ritual, the lamas sound a conch shell horn followed by ringing bells. Unfortunately, the ceremony does little to reunite mother and calf.

The family then realizes that a music ritual, known as a Hoos ritual, may be able to restore harmony; however, no one in their family can play the violin, which is the instrument required for the ceremony. The family must send its two youngest boys to the communal marketplace in order to locate a man who can perform the ritual. The boys travel on camelback through sandstorms and across the desert in order to reach the marketplace.

Once they find a man who can perform the ceremony, they return, and the family begins the ritual. First, the family ties the calf to the ground, out of reach of the mother, and then the musician places his violin on the camel’s hump, allowing the wind to evoke a small amount of noise from the instrument. Then the man begins playing the violin, and one of the female members of the family accompanies him by singing a chant that she had sung before while putting her youngest daughter to sleep. At this point, the calf is brought over to his mother, and for the first time the mother allows him to nurse from her. The mother begins to weep, which gives the film its title.

Several other global films will be shown this semester, including “Amelie” on Feb. 12, “The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert” on Mar. 12 and “The Gods Must Be Crazy” on April 9. Hyder-Darlington said the focus of the films this semester are feel-good films that will cause students to consider other ways of life across the world and to leave with a feeling of satisfaction and happiness.


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