Posts Tagged ‘Mongolian cinema’

Eastern Memories (2018) *** Bergamo Film Meeting 2019

Dir: Martti Kaartinen, Niklas Kullstrom | Doc, 86′

Finnish linguist, explorer and diplomat G. J. Ramstedt (1873-1950) first published his memoirs as a radio series. And it’s easy to see how engaging his story would be without visuals. But narrated by Michael O’Flaherty (Vikings) and Frank Skog over the backdrop of visually arresting but often subversive contemporary footage it is a much more muscular experience and one that requires your constant attention and engagement. And there’s also a score to contend with. So it’s not a meditative or contemplative as you initially imagine.

Ramstedt first fetched up in Mongolia at the turn of the 20th century with the aim of mastering various Asian languages including Mongolian, Japanese, and Korean. He also wrote about Mongolian epic poetry and become the first Finnish chargé d’affaires in Japan where he also translated Japanese poetry.

Niklas Kullström and Martti Kaartinen have worked long and hard on this documentary and the structural solution they have arrived at to avoid historical visuals makes for demanding viewing. The film is full of stimulating wisdom and insight of the kind we’ve grown used to expecting from the ancient Chinese and Mongolians who saw the world from a completely different point of view than the one we are currently used to in the West. And that’s very refreshing, as it projects the past into the future. A language is not just a set of equivalent words but comes into being to serve a completely different experience in all kinds of ways and Ramstedt conveys this wisdom cleaned from his studies of poetry, religion and local folklore. Mongolian is a fricative language and has adapted itself to being heard over distances, where people communicated on horseback rather than in close or intimate indoor settings. So the language needs to be rely on loud and abrasive sounds in order to be heard.

Niklas Kullström and Martti Kaartinen’s film works best in reflecting the contemplative mores of the East, and illustrates this in a scene in a remote panoramic landscape of Mongolia where two strangers meet: “If you see a stranger on the steppe it is customary to step down from the horse and wait. For a half an hour you exchange courtesies. Then you may get to the point”. MT

 

BERGAMO FILM MEETING | 9-17 MARCH 2019

Öndög (2019) **** Berlinale 2019

Dir: Wang Quan’an | Cast: Dulamjav Enkhtaivan, Aorigeletu, Norovsambuu Batmunkh, Gangtemuer Arild | Mongolia 2019, 100′

Wang Quan’an has been developing his astonishing cinematic style since his Golden Bear success with Tuya’s Marriage in 2007. This slow-burning detective eco-thriller also plays out as a love story for the wide open spaces of Mongolia; for the animals that roam there and the people caught between their traditional rural existence and the birth of the digital age and growing industrialisation.

Öndög is a visual masterpiece that glows and mesmerises. Each frame a jewel box of resplendent colours and wild scenery in a tale touched with the same cheeky humour as his previous films, and enriched with inventive compositions: a dromedary appears like a burning alien set against a campfire in the obsidian darkness, a peasant woman on horseback shares her landscape with the far distant funnels of a factory, puffing smoke into the gloaming. The narrative, too, is compelling but the characters never take themselves, or their existence, too seriously, as we learn through their spare but insightful views on live in this distant outpost.

A naked woman is found dead in the middle of nowhere, in the Mongolian steppe. Overnight, a young and inexperienced policeman has to secure the crime scene. Since he is not familiar with the dangers on site, a local herder is sent to guard him and the body. This determined woman is known locally as a ‘dinosaur’ for her single status approaching her mid thirties. But she’s no fool and can handle a rifle – and scare away wolves from harming her herd: “Hunting is instinctive” we are told in the opening scene where the police car creeps slowly through a curtain of corn, the only traffic a herd of wild horses. The woman herder lights a fire and offers alcohol to the young policeman to keep him warm, and they grow closer. This is a vast, exotic and remote place but the habits and motivations are no different from our Western ones. Especially for the women. Öndög is a unique tale full of comic and awesome scenes  and surprising twists and turns; it also handles existential themes in an offhand but ravishing way. MT

BERLINALE FILM FESTIVAL | 7-17 FEBRUARY 2019 | COMPETITION

Asia House Film Festival 2015 | 27 – 31 March 2015

The 7th Annual Asia House Film Festival which takes place from 27 March to 31 March 2015 at various venues around London. This year’s theme of NEW GENERATIONS reflects on all that’s new about cinema from Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Indonesian, India, Japan and Uzbekistan, with a special focus and retrospective on Mongolia.

The festival includes an selection of features including two European premieres. Opening the festival on Friday 27 March at the Ham Yard Theatre is the European Premiere of Indonesian film IN THE ABSENCE OF THE SUN, which frames the modern metropolis of Jakarta as never seen before. Directed, written and edited by Lucky Kuswandi (Madame X), it is a bittersweet tale of universal appeal, as its nostalgic memories unfold over the course of a single night.

Closing Asia House Film Festival 2015 on Tuesday 31 March at The Horse Hospital is the UK Premiere of YANGON CALLING – PUNK IN MYANMAR, directed by Alexander Dluzak and Carsten Piefke, an award-winning documentary about Myanmar’s underground punk scene filmed secretly in the former military dictatorship using hidden cameras. It provides a rare portrait of the rebels who really do have a cause, introducing us to their personal lives and their hidden world of rehearsal rooms and illicit concerts.

The European premiere of Kulikar Sotho’s THE LAST REEL presents different versions of the truth unearthed from a lost film, buried beneath Cambodia’s killing fields and the London premiere of PASSION FROM MONGOLIA, a poignant portrait of a man’s struggle to bridge two very different ages, is a great introduction to Mongolian cinema which will be showcased at the Cinema Museum on Sunday 19 April.

The festival will also host the UK Premiere of a musical documentary FLASHBACK MEMORIES 3D, that received the Audience Award winner at the 26th Tokyo International Film Festival. Directed by Japan’s Tetsuaki Matsue, it focuses on the didgeridoo maestro GOMA, who suffers from an inability to form new memories following a traffic accident at the peak of his career. Also on offer is a cult classic Uzbekistani “Red Western”. MT

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VENUES: Ham Yard Theatre, Rich Mix, The Horse Hospital and the Cinema Museum | 27 – 31 March 2015

 

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