A Mongolian nomad family find themselves in disagreement when the oldest daughter, Nansal, finds a dog and brings it home. Believing that it is responsible for attacking his sheep, her father refuses to allow her to keep it. When it’s time for the family to move on, Nansal must decide whether to defy her father and take her new friend with them. Oscar-nominated director Byambasuren’s follow up to the hugely successful THE STORY OF THE WEEPING CAMEL is a thought provoking mix of documentary and drama that tells the story of the age-old bond between man and dog, a bond which experiences a new twist through the eternal cycle of reincarnation in Mongolia.
The Mongolian Dog is concerned with the ongoing topic of urbanization. It focuses onthe change in my country, the existential changes that the nomads are facing. Important for me during the development of this film were the following themes: Which values and beliefs are the children growing up with? Can tradition and modernization exist side by side in harmony? What does “modern life” mean from the perspective of a nomad family?
The protagonists and the story: I decided to follow the themes together with a 5-member nomad family from the Altai region and portray them in a universally understood conflict. In the film, the young girl NANSA finds a small puppy in a cave while out collecting fire wood. She immediately falls in love with the puppy and names it ZOCHOR (Mongolian = colorful). But the father demands that NANSA get rid of the dog and set it out again since it is uncertain if the nomad family will continue its nomadic lifestyle, and the dog’s uncertain origin – possibly from a wolf – could pose a threat to the family. Story Levels and Mongolian Peculiarities: My film tells the universally understandable story of a conflict between father and daughter. The daughter NANSA is the main figure in the film and is the focal point of the story line. On a further level, the viewer is introduced to my Mongolian culture. On the one hand, the fascinating life of the self-sufficient nomad family with its animal herds, and on the other hand, our Mongolian peculiarities. I would like to emphasize this part of my film in particular since it deals with great spirituality and Buddhist belief, both of which have an influence on the nomad’s harmonious connection with nature and the belief in reincarnation. The eternal cycle of reincarnation: “Everyone dies, but no one is dead.”
I begin the film with a prologue from the father. “Everyone dies, but no one is dead, ”the father says to his daughter and buries the dog. A worldly wisdom that my grandmother shared with me as a young girl. I show a close relationship between man and dog: between ZOCHOR and NANSA and the father BATCHULUM. This spiritual closeness has its origins in our belief in “the eternal cycle of reincarnation.” The soul wanders from body to body, from plant to animal, before it becomes a dog and then a human. In modern times, many Mongolians are turning away from traditional beliefs in favor of a more modern lifestyle. As a result, the relationship between man and dog is also changing. The eternal cycle loses its balance: I show the father’s worries and describe the impact of the migration of families to the cities. Many nomad families leave their dogs behind in the wilderness when they move to the cities. The dogs pack together and mate with wolves, they attack remaining nomad families, kill their sheep and goats – thus threatening their economic means and existence. From the hunters that the father meets out in the field, the viewer learns that nomad families used to go out together to fight off the wolves. This protection for the children and herds, however, is no longer possible as a result of the increasing migration to the cities. The dangers for small children – not only from the wolves – has become a ubiquitous part of everyday life. Authenticity and a society in change: For me, the greatest challenge in my film was to tell an emotional story showing societal changes and authentic details of the everyday life of a nomad family. I observe a mother preparing milk products, from milking to cutting and drying the cheese, and I attempt to give the Western viewer an idea of what everyday life looks like for a large part of my people. I placed particular value on showing the dismantling of a nomad yurt in detail, and integrating children’s games in the story, for these things are so very different to the things I have experienced in Germany. Working on the film with a normal family: Based on my experiences with my last film – The Story of the Weeping Camel – I am convinced that every person has his own – often undiscovered – creativity.
My task as the director was to convince my protagonists of their own creativity and to win their trust. This approach of course requires more time in comparison to a film production with professional actors. My team and I spent more than 60 days on location and not until the protagonists and my film team got used to each other could we start filming. Together we could express the creative and artistic authenticity of our nomad family and the dog ZOCHOR. A life between modernity and old traditions: The everyday life of the nomads can no longer be viewed as completely independent of the influences of an urban lifestyle. NANSA, the oldest daughter, visits a boarding school and during her holidays she tells her younger brother and sister about life in the city. “When we move to the city, I want to live way up high, so that I can still see the stars,” NANSA says in the film. The new and unknown city life is idealized. The children try to interpret everything they hear about the city. As a director, I used the child’s perspective to also show some of the positive aspects of modernization, for example to bring up the topic and importance of a good education. However, it was important for me to keep the city as a projection surface in the viewer’s minds. That’s why I decided to rely on the pictorial language of the children rather than showing the city through the “eyes” of the camera. As a filmmaker, I don’t want to pass judgment on whether the development in my country is good or bad. I myself got to know the advantages of the city and had the opportunity to study in Germany. However, I still feel a longing for traditional values, ones that many no longer even recognize, but values that were passed on to my by my grandmother. Together with NANSA, I send the viewer on journey to one’s roots. The fable of the yellow dog: In my film, NANSA must follow her father’s orders and set little ZOCHOR out. As a result, she loses her way, she gets lost. When NANSA hears a melody and singing off in the distance, she follows it. She comes upon an old, gray-haired woman, who is singing with all her might across the valley. NANSA is taken in by the old woman. Time in the old woman’s tent appears to have stood still. An important meeting takes place here; the old and the new find a common bond in the fable of the yellow dog, which stands for the pinnacle of little NANSA’s journey in life. NANSA’s little dog becomes the YELLOW DOG. The concrete story line melts with the higher-ranking metaphoric dimension. NANSA gets to know her cultural and spiritual roots. The fable shows the viewer a new appreciation of life. The old woman demonstrates picture-perfectly just how difficult it is to be reborn as a human. My grandmother told me the fable of the yellow dog many years ago and with it she communicated to me one of the greatest worldly wisdoms. With my film, I would like to make this story available to other people from other cultural backgrounds. A life beyond linear values: From Mongolia, I know a life beyond linear and material values. At the end of the film, I show the reconciliation between the father and the dog ZOCHOR. With that, I would like to hold on to the hope that old and young can exist equally, side by side. Even if my film family does take off into uncertainty at the end of the film.
στο πρωτο βιντεο σκηνες απο την ταινια και στο δευτερο σκηνες απο τα γυρίσματα της ταινιας