The story is about a family of nomadic shepherds in the Gobi desert trying to save the life of a rare white bactrian camel (Camelus bactrianus) calf after it was rejected by its mother. The documentary was nominated for an Oscar in the category Best Documentary at the 77th Academy Awards.
During Spring, a family of nomadic shepherds assists the births of their camel herd. The last camel to calve this season has a protracted labor that persists for two days. With the assistance and intervention of the family, a rare white calf is born. This is her first calving. Despite the efforts of the shepherds, the mother rejects the newborn, refusing it her milk and fails to establish a care-bond with it.
To restore harmony between the mother and calf, the nomadic family call upon the services of group of lamas who perform a ritual with bread or dough ‘effigies’ (Tibetan: torma) of the mother, the calf and the individual members of the family. The rite opens with the sound of a sacred conch shell horn followed by bells in the hands of lamas, some of whom wield ‘vajra’ (Sanskrit), but the ritual does not re-establish harmony between the mother and calf.
The family then resolve to secure the services of an indigenous ‘violinist’ to play the music for a Mongolian ‘Hoos’ ritual. They send their two young boys on a journey through the desert to the community marketplace to locate a musician. The ‘violinist’ –who plays more precisely, a Morin Khuur– is summoned to the camp and a ritual of folk music and chanting is enacted. The mother camel starts to weep, tears visibly streaming from her eyes. Immediately after the rite the mother and calf are reconciled and the calf draws milk from her teat.
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