Cave of the Yellow Dog

 Another beautiful and humane film from Mongolian director Byambasuren Davaa.

Two years ago, her film, The Story of the Weeping Camel, was an unexpected box office success, winning many awards, including a SIGNIS award (from the World Catholic Association for Communication) and an Oscar nomination.

Audiences were amazed by her depiction of the nomadic life on the steppes and charmed by the story of the baby camel rejected by its mother.

Some of these themes are explored further with the Yellow Dog. And, once again, the film has been honoured with awards (including another SIGNIS prize).

This time the focus is more on a real-life human family, the Batchuluuns, goat and cattle herders, who move around the country during the winter but settle during the summer months in a luxuriant valley. There are father and mother, two little girls, aged about six and four and a baby boy. One day the oldest girl is out collecting dung for the fires when she comes across a cave where the Yellow Dog is hiding. It is love at first sight - but her dad does not want the dog in the camp.

The portrayal of the family - both parents diligent and hardworking, and the children playing together so naturally - is a delight to watch.

The story, told with documentary-like attention to detail, follows the tending of the herds, the father's visit to the city to sell goat skins and buy supplies (including a pink toy dog which winds up and barks and a plastic saucepan which, sadly, melts in the boiling water).

It is fascinating to see inside the large and beautifully decorated yurt that the family live in - and watch how it is methodically taken down and loaded on to carts drawn by oxen.

As the family head off, a car with loud speaker drives past, during everyone to vote in the forthcoming elections. A reminder of a different world.

There is also a mini-drama as the baby climbs out of its box and wanders off without his parents realising it. It would be giving the story away to tell you what happens next.LONDON - 10 July 2006 - 360 words

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