Sometimes the best way to experience a destination is to watch a film that takes place there. If you have been, it’s also a way to remind you why you fell in love with it in the first place. Films about a country allow you to escape. But they also allow you to visit places and see inside the skin of people entirely different to ourselves. Travel films broaden our perspective – just like an actual physical trip to Mongolia will do as well. These are a few of favourites films about Mongolia and also ones that are not that well-known outside of Mongolia.
Story Of The Weeping Camel
There are two main ingredients to this documentary-style film. The epic landscapes of Mongolia’s Gobi Desert and the way of life of the herders that make their home in this vast expanse. A camel calf is rejected by its mother. Without its mother’s milk, the calf will die. To save its life, two sons of the herding family travel to their nearest small town for a Morin Khuur (Horse Head Fiddle) musician to play a ‘Ингенд Ботго Авахуулах’ (traditional coaxing ritual) to encourage the mother camel to release its milk. If you’ve been to the small community of Bulgan in the southern Gobi (which if you’ve been to Flaming Cliffs / Bayanzag then you probably have), this is the small town that the two boys travel to in search of traditional musicians and batteries.
State of Dogs
Set in Mongolia’s capital city, Ulaanbaatar, the film combines documentary elements with fictional elements. It’s quite impressionistic in its story of Baasar, a dog who dies early in the movie — shot by a hunter employed by the city to reduce its dog population. According to Mongolian legend, a dog (who is prepared) may be reincarnated in its next life as a human, after roaming free for as long as he wants. Baasar roams the memory of his life, uninterested in advancing to human life. The film is a depiction of modern Mongolian life with definite connections to Mongolian myths.
Cave Of The Yellow Dog
The oldest daughter of a Mongolian herding family finds a small dog but her father refuses to let her keep it, believing it will bring the family bad luck and lead wolves to their sheep. Nansal decides to defy her father by hiding her new friend but as winter approaches and the family prepares to move camps, her father plans to leave the dog behind. He is forced to reconsider after the dog protects their youngest child from vultures.
Balapan, The Altai Boy
By Hamid Sardar, western Mongolia forms the backdrop to this film where flocks of sheep belonging to local herders are being attacked by wolves. The men of the local community opt for a wolf hunt with their eagles. Four-year-old Khoda Bergen dreams of participating in the hunt but first has to train his own eagle. ”
Tracking The White Reindeer
Again by Hamid Sardar but set in the Darkhad Depression of Mongolia’s far north. This film focuses on the Tsaatan (Duka) reindeer herders. A young couple wishes to get married, but the father of the girl wants her prospective husband to prove himself by raising a herd of reindeer by himself.
The Eagle Huntress
Probably the most famous film to come out of Mongolia. Ever. Directed by Otto Bell, this is the 2016 Kazakh-language film that tells the story of 13-year old Aisholpan, the Kazakh girl from western Mongolia who wants to follow in the footsteps of her father and become an eagle hunter.
Burn Your Maps
A quirky adventure where Wes, an 8-year-old American boy, believes that he is a Mongolian goat herder. When Wes befriends an Indian immigrant they use crowdfunding to finance a journey to the plains of Mongolia.
The Two Horses Of Genghis Khan
Another film written and directed by Byambasuren Davaa – ‘The Two Horses of Genghis Khan’ refers to a Mongolian folk song whose lyrics are chiefly lost today. The film follows musician Urna’s journey across Mongolia to recover the missing verses and perform the song in Ulaanbaatar.
Directed by Peter Brosens and Jessica Hope Woodworth, the film focuses life on the Mongolian steppe for Bagi, a nomadic herder. A livestock plague forces young Bagi and his family to abandon their traditional way of life
If you prefer books to films, then you may want to look at our blog post books about Mongolia. Or, get in touch and we can provide a list of further inspiration.