Monday, January 14, 2008

Kekexili: Mountain Patrol

I stumbled on this movie accidentally at AXN last Saturday and I was glued to the screen. At first I thought it was one of those mainland films depicting life under communist rule, but as I continued watching, I realized this was a story about life in the wilderness of Tibet.

The film acts like a travel documentary, revolving around a Beijing Photojournalist on assignment in Tibet. He gets first hand experience with the rugged and harsh life in the mountains.

During his trip, the journalist encounters a group of Tibetan vigilantes who roam the land to protect endangered antelopes from poachers. They track down illegal hunters across the mountains, arresting violators and burying the carcasses of dead antelopes they encountered.

The film portrays the harshness of the Tibetan mountains -- from its cold numbing frost, to its vast stretched of wasteland. It shows how people survive under poverty. Abandoned or simply ignored by the government, these people resort to illegal poaching, skinning of antelope skins (which are prized in the black market), and stealing.

One of the scenes that struck me was when the patrol arrested a group of poachers. The journalist interviewed one of the criminals, an old man who claimed to be the fastest antelope skinner in the region. The old man proudly showed his three sons who were along with him. He said that he was once a shepherd but because of the changes in the weather, his livestock died. Shortly after that, he became a poacher.

I liked the way the film portrayed the region as a "savage frontier", where everyday is a fight for survival. It also shows how the land affects its inhabitants, and how it affects ones moral judgment and view of good/evil.

No comments: