Posts tagged National Geographic

“Weeping Camel” movie about nomadic life on Mongolian steppes

National Geographic made a great film titled “Weeping Camel” if you want to know what life on the nomad’s steppe is like in Mongolia. It could just as well have been filmed in Kazakhstan. It showed several Mongolian families in their yurts and featured one of their camels delivering a baby camel.  It took two days and was a very difficult delivery.  The mother camel rejected her baby that was white, which is rare for camels.  I thought the best line in the film is when someone in the family, an older and wiser person said, “We must find a good violinist” to help with the ritual of getting mother and colt back together.  All is subtitled in English because the conversations are all naturally in Mongolian.

Here is how the movie starts, quote taken from imdb.com:

 Now my children I’ll tell you the story of the weeping camel. Many years ago, God gave antlers to the camel as a reward for the goodness of its heart. But one day a rogue deer came and asked the camel to lend him his antlers. He wanted to adorn himself with them for a celebration in the west. The camel trusted the deer and gave him his antlers, but the deer never brought them back. Since then the camels keep gazing at the horizon and still await the deer’s return.

I’m not sure how National Geographic was able to do the filming but they got a LOT of intimate shots of the children getting bathed, baby girl crying when she was put on a leash inside the yurt next to grandma, sharing meals, etc. We also saw the delivery of the baby camel and how they tried to coerce the mother to return to her baby while the baby camel wailed and moaned.  They had to force feed the baby camel from a horn filled with milk from another mother camel.  Arduous work, best that the mother camel do her job as a mother.

The cutest part is the little Mongolian boy about 5-6 years old wants to ride with his older brother on a camel to the nearby town where they must fetch the musician who will do the ritual.  Remember, they must find a good violinist.  Keep in mind that their violin has only two strings but the same kind of bow that we are used to seeing.  It looks like an er-hu that the Chinese play but is boxy instead.

The little boy can’t even mount the camel by himself.  He is in awe of the television set that people have in more civilized areas.  He asks why they can’t have a t.v. and his older brother’s reply is that they have no electricity in their yurt.  They do buy batteries for their grandfather’s radio which is their only connection to the outside world.

I highly recommend renting or buying this DVD. Though it is slow moving, the photography and the story line are great.  I won’t tell you the ending whether the mother camel and her offspring finally get together. That would be a major spoiler to the whole plot of the movie.  Enjoy the extended family, how they live without any outside interference from the rest of the world.  This gives you a clear picture of what life used to be like in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan and other parts of Central Asia.  Life is close to nature with herding sheep, cattle, camels and living off the land.  Simple as that.

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K-19–Soviet Widowmaker Sub and Russian “Collage” Painting

Last night Ken and I watched a movie titled “K-19-Widowmaker” starring Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson, released in 2002. K-19 was based on a true story which portrayed the grim realities of the Cold War in a Soviet nuclear submarine in the 1960s.  Impossible decisions were made by these two captains who were in conflict with each other.  Their decisions one way or the other, in the effort to save the crew, could have triggered the end of civilization as we know it. Ford was THEE Comrade Captain and ultimate bad guy while Neeson had been demoted from working with his own crew of 120 men, thus making him second in command under Ford.  In order to make this film, it cost over 100,000 million dollars. National Geographic had sunk their own money into this “documentary” to show support for something that had been kept secret among the members of the real Soviet navy crew once an investigation took place back in Moscow to find out who needed to be punished. Certainly things went awry, who could have anticipated this with such a proud and noble start at the beginning of their mission. Unfortunately, the filmmakers of this incredible movie only retrieved about two thirds of their investment in return from the box office and sales of the DVD.

Why are people not interested in movies related to the Cold War?  Is it because it is a confusing history or because there are too many versions of it from the U.S. side as well as the Soviet side?  In any case, it shows how loyalty, respect of command and allegiance to one’s country even if it means certain death, are values that run very deeply.  Not one American was portrayed in this movie except a U.S. Navy helicopter who came to the rescue of the K-19.  From start to finish the movie featured actors as Soviet navy men speaking English with Russian accents all the way up to the star actors, Ford and Neeson. But I don’t want to spoil this story for you, you will have to see it for yourself to see how closely this movie might align itself to politics in Kazakhstan right now.  I see some parallels from my vantage point of living in the seat of the government, Astana, the new capital of Kazakhstan.

Politics is a terribly murky topic to write about, when Ken and I went to Astana’s Independence Hall, we saw a LARGER than life mural on the third floor.  The artist painted in 19 men congratulating the president of this country who is striding in the center with a medal around his neck.  On the left side is former French president Mitterand, Bush, Blair, the Japanese president (forget his name) and others smiling and clapping.  On the right of the big mural, which is called a “collage” in Russian because it is not an actual event but a historical collection of the main characters is Yeltsin (clapping hands on far right), Putin (is NOT clapping), Lushenko, Bakayiev (deposed president of Kyrgyzstan), Yushenko (former president of Ukraine) and many more leaders from the former republics of the U.S.S.R.  If my readers want to help me out with naming the characters, that would be GREAT help!

[thanks to one of my blog readers, some of the mystery is solved about the other dignitaries in this collage: Junichiro Koizumi (name of the Japanese Prime-Minister); next to Bush is Berluskoni (Italy), Mikheil Saakashvili (Georgia) and Hu Jintao (China);

On the right: Can’t figure out the person behind Yeltsin, but then as you said Putin, behind him is Lukashenko (Belorus), Bakiyev (Kyrgyz Republic), behind him is, to me he looks like Gerhard Shroeder (Germany), Emomoli Rahmonov (Tajikistan), can’t tell for sure, think it’s Ahmet Necdet Sezer (Turkey,)  Lukashenko (Belorus), Islam Karimov (Uzbekistan), Yushenko, Robert Kocharyan (Armenia)]

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