Detaillierte Präsentation des Projekts
Batmaa, Gundjimaa, Nordjmaa and the others, I met you when you were little girls in Tsaagan Nuur, the village of the White Lake in North Mongolia. I, the French girl twenty years older than you, played, ran and sang in the steppes with you. You taught me Mongolian language and how to herd yaks. Since then, you’ve always been in my thoughts, what would you become in your village? How would be your life? And I, what if I were born there?
Tsagaan Nuur “The White Lake”, a village in North Mongolia, in the Hövsgöl area, just south of the Baïkal lake within the Taïga forest. A post-exotic view : wooden shacks, sometimes painted blue, green or pink, some administrative buildings in ruins, streets filled with dust carried by the winds. In this corner of the world, under Soviet influence for many years, a surrealist impression persists. Yaks, dogs and horses roam freely between the school, the lake, the dispensary and what remains of the burnt down ball room. Some families live in yurts, others in wooden houses or in Teepees. We are in the land of reindeer herders and shamans. Families are nomadic and move depending of the period of the year. Children go to school in the nearby villages and meet their families during the holidays.
How do girls of this region picture their life? Who will they marry, how many children do they want to have? What kind of education do they receive as girls (Are periods, sexuality or pregnancy discussed)? Will they follow their parents nomadic life-style? Try their luck in the city, access university? Yes, but how, why and with what money? What are their reference points in this society that adapted to capitalism after 70 years of communist regime in lighting times.
And what do their grand-mothers think of the evolution of society? In such a short amount of time cell phones have spread, Facebook and television have made the discovery of a world possible which nomadic Mongolians wouldn’t have been able to access before, and yet, they listen to the latest hits and take selfies for Instagram… Even the grand-mothers play at Candy Crush.
“I’ve already shot two films in this region “The Quest for Sound” (2002) about the initiation of a French woman to shamanism and “Shaman Tour” (2006) about the development of tourism and the survival strategies set up by Enkhetuya’s family (the famous shaman of Lake Hövsgöl who introduced numerous French people to shamanism). I have travelled there regularly ever since.”
When one thinks of Mongolia, one imagines the great steppes, the herds of horses, the yurts, the skilled and fiery horse riders… All these idealised images feed our imagination with ideas of freedom, but also of archaism and tradition: the costumes, the women preparing salty milk tea in the yurts, milking the yaks in the early morning hours, a shaman in trance, her costume swirling around at the sound of a drum in her dark teepee… All these situations still exist and we will film them, but setting aside the clichés, the idea of the film is to show that a multitude of displaced situations coexist, contemporary and globalised that show the real face of today’s Mongolia (and of the world?).
But if we go beyond the postcard image, we discover a much more interesting and universal picture of globalisation, of man-woman equality, of technological advances and of deep societal changes. That’s the Mongolia I am interested to depict! Throughout my work as a director, I have often privileged a displaced view that defies clichés. I film real people showing all their complexity, their contradictions, and their self-mockery. The behind the scenes have always attracted me more than the spectacle in life’s stage, I leave behind the pomposity and the staging to give way to intimate moments of letting go and of free abandonment.
I have met many families in this region since 1998. And I’ve always maintained this tender look on these little girls: What will you become? What if I had been born in this part of the world, what would I have become? What would I have done with my life?
In all the villages around the world, young girls ask themselves the same questions about the future, their lives as women… I think I have remained sufficiently young at heart to be able to talk with these girls of the White Lake. Trying to understand how they imagine their lives, between modernity and traditions, in one of the most remote regions of the world. Trying to understand their life to understand mine? Maybe. But also to show Mongolian society from the inside, camera at hand, and to show the role of women from Soviet times to today.
The girls take the camera and turn it towards the director. The filmmaker being filmed. Shared and collaborative anthropology. What do the little girls dream about? And what was my dream as a child? Did I make my dreams come true ? The gaze is shared: the view of the director on those women, the view of the little girls on their grand-mothers that they will interview (Granny, did you chose your husband?), the view of the Mongolian women on the Western world by looking at the director who slowly unveils herself throughout the film.
The chaos of the place will be captured in all its poetry. The rose-orange colours of the sunsets enveloping the squalor of the shacks. The aesthetics and the poetry of the images don’t seek to conceal the misery, as that isn’t the film’s intention, but rather to exalt this place at the far ends of the world and to try and give back through the images the feelings of surreal displacement that the foreigner feels when he arrives in this area and strides across the grey earth between its wooden houses and its fences.
A real work of immersion will be privileged and portrayed through the image as a phenomenological stroll, as if we were all there. The message I want to convey, whilst paying homage to the beauty of the characters and the landscapes, is that of the universality of our human concerns. Them and I, us and the others, all united in a same view of life?
Laetitia Merli is a French filmmaker and anthropologist (PhD-EHESS), specialised in the regions of Mongolia and Siberia. She teaches documentary filmmaking (former lecturer at the Granada Centre in Manchester, Documentary film workshop in Marseille-EHESS). She made several films awarded at international festivals (Festival Jean Rouch, RAI, Cervino FF) and screened on TV (Arte, Planète): Call for Grace (2000), Shaman Tour (2009), The Shamans’ Revenge (2010), Today’s Shamans (2016).
Fanny Chrétien is a young entrepreneur, who founded her own production company, La Boîte à Songes, in 2014. She has graduated with a Master’s in documentary anthropology (Paris 10) and in documentary production (Ecole de Lussas), and produces and directs documentary films for television in France and internationally (Greece, Armenia…).
Eve Le Cardonnel is an editor with 14 years of experience in the industry, who mainly worked on reportages, corporate videos, advertisement, music videos and short films. After having affirmed her skills in the shorter creative versions, she is invested today in working on feature film documentaries in order to express her strong aesthetic and technical skills on subjects that focus on developing a complex narrative.
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