Set in contemporary Mongolia, this imaginative fable follows 17-year-old Bagi, a nomadic shepherd who possesses untapped transcendental powers. After the military forces Bagi and his family to abandon their way of life and resettle in a mining town, he crosses paths with a beautiful coal thief who helps him find his destiny.
No trailer, virtually no reviews online. I went for it anyway. Mongolia is a wild place, I like wild places, and I like insights into foreign lands via film. It’s certainly weird, but it was absolutely worth 2 hours.
It’s a magical realist tale of traditional life in Mongolia being uprooted by “progress”. It’s very much a story told in the vein of Ten Canoes, and Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner), which are both indigenous myths brought to life in film, in which you are encouraged to see the world from within the supernatural understanding of the characters. The catch with Khadak is that, instead of being set in the isolated past, it’s set in the present, and conveys the cultural discontinuity inherent in being forcibly transported from a life of meditative nomadic herding on the steppes of central Asia, into a coal-mining town built by the former Communist regime.
The cinematography is beautiful, and the dialog is unique – the movie is in parts nearly non-verbal. You definitely get the feeling that Mongolian society has developed in an environment that encourages introspection and meditative contemplation. The transitions between supernatural and realist contexts can be a little jarring, but no doubt being forced into the life of a coal miner having grown up as a shepherd is jarring too, and one can imagine having a hard time coming to terms with it, especially as a teenager.
I’d give it 4/5 stars.