March 25, 2008
Reviewer: Monica Peck
Rating (out of 5): ***½
In Peter Brosen and Jessica Hope Woodworth's beautifully shot Khadak, Mongolian nomads fall prey to a government relocation program. As part of the package, the nomads are given work in massive coalmines and housing in pink concrete high-rises. Such close parallels to actual current events can hardly be coincidental. Indeed the Chinese government, according to the BBC, is currently relocating more than 60,000 Tibetan nomads as an effort to 'prevent global warming.' Such a transparent ruse to control the mineral-rich as yet unmined lands that have been sustainably used by nomadic cultures for thousands of years, has one thinking of
Hitler's Goebbels' famous quote, "Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it."
Khadak does not approach documentary, although it's tale be true. Rather, writer/directors Brosen and Woodworth weave symbolic and mystical elements - visual and aural - into an ever tightening narrative cloth, where the magic remains poetic, because it is never explained or defined. (Dare I mention Fellini's Juliet of the Spirits?)
Artist and coal thief Zolzaya (Tsetsegee Byamba) co-stars with Bagi (Batzul Khayankhyarvaa) a young nomad trying to escape inheriting his shamanic legacy. Although these two take center stage, the film is ripe with intriguing cameos: the village shamaness, the perplexed doctors, the rock band and their fans, the poet, Zolzaya's big brother. Each stands as an archetype as the film unfolds itself from historical drama into grand fable.
Technically, Khadak also deserves some props. It's the first feature film shot on location in Mongolia in extremely cold temperatures - 36 degrees below zero on average. The film scooped up quite a few awards and nominations, notably a Sundance Jury Award Nomination, a Silver Tiaga at Russia's Spirit of Fire Festival and Best First Feature at Venice.
Posted by cphillips at March 25, 2008 12:38 PM