The Two Horses of Genghis Khan is really a beautiful film, cinematically aware and very personal. Seeing it, and feeling so drawn to it, I was constantly aware that the MIFF program guide’s blurb of the film was absolutely flawed and gave no real indication of what Genghis Khan is actually like. Slotted into the ‘Documentary’ category of the festival’s overly regulated and narrow system, this film has perhaps been unable to garner as much attention as it should have. Although there were crowds at yesterday’s screening, the Forum was by no means full or ‘selling fast’.
Written and directed by acclaimed Byambasuren Davaa, who also has made The Cave of the Yellow Dog (2005) and The Story of the Weeping Camel (2009), Genghis Khan has an eye into a part of the world that the cinema is rarely privvy to. And we are shown it through the eyes of a Urna, woman who cares deeply for her homeland, and her people, and her cultural history. Her conversation with the woman on the top of the hill is touching, and allows us in to a woman’s lifelong connection with her land. And while searching for an old Mongolian song, Urna is also searching for an answer to the division of the Mongolias, stuck in the middle of an unwanted disunity. The conversation regarding Inner Mongolia as part of China is fascinating, as it always is to hear the opinions of the annexed other, rather than the conqueror. Jeff Daniels’ The 10 Conditions of Love allows us similar insight into the culture of the Uighur people, taken forcefully as part of China, but internally, maintaining a very independent identity. Davaa, in her director’s statement, says that “the violin, the morin khuur, embodies like no other instrument the Mongols’ national identity.” Not only a documentary, it is a snapshot of the breathtaking country of (Outer) Mongolia and a very emotionally masterful story.
Genghis Khan is really about the division of a culture, and one woman’s very personal, and very passionate, attempt to reconcile. MIFF’s catchphrase, that it is “an initiation into the little-heard music of Mongolia”, hardly does this achievement justice.