Mongolian film: struggle and hope

Source:Xinhua Published: 2013-10-14 13:51:04

A Mongolian teenger Tsog ran away from his nomadic family to the country's capital Ulan Bator. Sitting on the top floor of an apartment with a remote TV control in hand, he is trying to control the TV of a woman living in the opposite building, her life, the plane in the sky and even the whole world.

This is the scene from Mongolian director Byamba Sakhya's debut of feature film "Remote Control", the first ever Mongolian film entered and won the Busan International Film Festival's new currents section, the main competition section, in the festival's 18-year history.

The BIFF jury commented "Remote Control" neatly portrayed tensions between reality and fiction.

"Mongolia society is just like the teenager in my film, he wants to become an adult man, eager for more power, but still very young and naive," Sakhya told Xinhua in an exclusive interview.

Sakhya said the whole society is undergoing a huge transition in terms of politics, economy and culture. People are confused about whom they are and what their beliefs should be.

"The country is now struggling to look for its new value and identity that can represent its unique history and culture, which is my film tries to display," said Sakhya.

Born in Ulan Bator in 1962, Sakhya graduated from the Russian Film Institute as a cinematographer. He is also a writer and director who has worked in film industry for over 25 years.

Vast landscapes, the nomadic lifestyle and rich mineral resources maybe the current national identity of Mongolia. But Sakhya is looking for more.

A little monk appeared several times in his film, making Tsog cancel his original intention of helping a group of thieves.

"The monk is a symbol of the internal world of the people. I think we must look inside to find out our own identity," said Sakhya.

Sakhya's film is full of traditional symbols like Mongolian yurts, praying flags and the splendid Mongolia costumes, all of which are vanishing during this chaotic period.

But when a South Korean audience asked if Sakhya has some nostalgia about the past, he denied at once.

"The outsiders always have a romantic imagination about Mongolia's beautiful landscape and the traditional nomadic lifestyle. But for insiders it is only a tough life to live," said Sakhya.

Sakhya said there is something old they must keep, but there is also something new they should welcome. How to balance the past and present is a challenge.

"Sometimes we look back only because there are some basic thinks in the past, which are not changed by time. In most cases we have to look forward," he said.

Sakhya is indeed always looking forward. When he graduated from the Russian Film Institute and went back to Mongolia in 1990s, he felt he chose the wrong time to make films but never complained about it. The country's national film studio "Mongol Kino"which produced six to seven films per year has collapsed. Local filmmakers cannot get technical facilities and funds anymore.

Even now in Ulan Bator, where more than one million people live, only four cinemas exist. Film schools are short of facilities and professional teachers. Filmmakers can hardly get state subsidy and are forced to seek independent funding from Europe.

Sakhya regarded these difficulties and limitations as the fuel that sparked his creativity. His made a documentary film "Passion" to offer an insight into the past and present of Mongolian cinema. Sakhya followd filmmaker Binder Jigjid, the son of acclaimed Mongolian director Jigjid Dejid, traveled the country to distribute and screen his own films. During the journey he explored the universal battle between art and commerce and other challenges faced by current filmmakers.

"I and other Mongolian filmmakers are optimistic about the future as we are an optimistic nation since ancient times. In the past our nomadic people endure the tough environment and have to travel from one place to another. Only hope can make us survive," said Sakhya, who is now happy to witness the new generation of young filmmakers' emerging.

More and more young people become interested in filmmaking in recent years, although some of them have to go abroad to pursue film education considering the poor domestic educational environment.

"I hope young filmmakers can make some international success, so that our government will offer some funding to the film industry and maybe we will have our own studio again," said Sakhya.

Sakhya believes that the future of Mongolia's film industry links closely with the future of the country, which must be created in the right way.

"I don't think a film has strength to lead society in the right way. But I agree that it will be helpful if a film can help people understand who they are. Our society is consisted of individuals, so if each member of the society finds the right value, the society will be in the right way," said Sakhya.

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