Some work gets posted on The Stable because of the magnificence of its production. This is that kind of work. It’s two connected music video-short films for artist, Novo Amor, by directing duo, Sil & Jorik, who have recently signed to Park Village.
The story itself – a complete film at 12 minutes that has been split into two equal halves – is wonderful. And important. A snapshot of a beautiful and fast disappearing culture. It follows Mongolia’s reindeer herders, The Tsaatan, as they struggle to sustain their lifestyle, which is under threat by climate change. Ulaanbaater in Mongolia is the world’s most polluted capital. An ever-changing climate has devastated the country’s herders and nomads, weakening their animals and threatening an entire culture with extinction (only 40 Tsaatan families remain). As a result, many relocate to the city and burn coal to stay warm.
But it would be another story about the earth, and the people who live on it, in peril were it not for the direction and the film qualities managing how that story is being told. These make it stand out as remarkable content.
The first chapter, Sleepless, follows a miner, who escapes the city to find a shaman to cure his ailing daughter, who has fallen ill from air pollution. After an arduous journey across otherworldly landscapes, the family finally finds a new home among reindeer herders in the forest. The second chapter, Repeat Until Death, opens with the heartfelt relationship between the daughter and a reindeer. However, the daughter learns that even this seemingly untouched world is changing.
Sil & Jorik (Sil van der Woerd and Jorik Dozy), wrote and directed the films.
They commented, “After filming inside a sulphur emitting volcano (Terraform) and underwater with a 13m prop whale in the ocean (Birthplace), we convinced Ali (Novo Amor) to film his latest videos in Mongolia, where we wanted to capture the country’s abundant beauty and its pressing environmental issues. Filming at temperatures as low as -35 degrees Celsius has been the most challenging thing we have done to date. As directors, we’re always hoping to encounter an artist who is willing to take a risk and to trust us. Ali is this artist. Ali’s music is awe-inspiring and working with him has been a true blessing since day one.”
The Dutch directing duo spent 20 days in Mongolia, navigating extreme shoot conditions. They travelled from the city of Ulaanbaatar and the Nalaikh coal mine, to the most Northern region of the country to the Tsaatan tribe. Limited road infrastructure and the Tsaatan tribe’s secluded location meant even their 4×4 jeep struggled to get the crew to across bumpy dirt tracks for days at a time.
An essential part of the story, Ulaanbaatar’s intense pollution, only occurs in winter, when temperatures drop well below -35 degrees Celsius. With strong wind intensifying the cold, the crew could only be outside for a maximum of 15 minutes, even with ultra-protective outfits. The extreme weather presented challenges not only physically for the crew and cast, but also for the equipment. The team had to overcome issues with the drones, such as signal loss and malfunctioning landing gear. All of the gear, which was touch-screen-only, had to be gradually acclimatised between internal and external settings.
Sil & Jorik noted, “The Tsaatan, like all Mongolians, are very kind and very toughened people. They welcomed us in their homes and even gave up their beds. The Tsaatan live an exceptionally tough life. There was no running water in the camp so our Mongolian crew cut big blocks of ice from the nearby lake to drink as teas and soups. Whether it was a runaway deer, an intense snow blizzard, or leaving the camp in a rush due to temperatures about to plummet to about -45 degrees Celsius, we constantly had to adapt our script and schedule. Besides these challenges, there were also plenty of magical moments, such as the arrival of the herd of reindeer each afternoon from the forest, the zero-light pollution at night revealing the milky way, the stunning twilight, the reindeer willing to endlessly lick your hand, and the laughter coming from the tent of our Mongolian crew each night.”