A Young Mongol Herder and a Livestock Plague


Bagi (Batzul Khayankhyarvaa, a non-professional actor) is a young Mongol herder sharing a yurt with his depleted family on their ancestral steppes, leading much the same subsistence life that his people have lived for a millennium. One day, state officials arrive bearing prophecy of a livestock plague, and the family is rounded up and slotted into worker housing in a toxic mining town. Co-directors Brosens and Woodworth, both of whom have done documentary work in Mongolia, are fine when indulging their photojournalistic impulses, scouring the poured-concrete ruins of Soviet-era architecture to compile a portfolio of images from this little-known world. But Khadak recedes deeper and deeper into esoterica as it progresses, turning into a kind of oblique ecological protest as Bagi connects with a renegade troupe of avant-garde musicians opposing the authoritarian state. The rebellion never achieves the mythopoeic visual potency it strives for; while passably adopting several familiar modes of art-house style—the minimalism of figures in a gaping landscape, excruciatingly paced anomie, vague apocalyptica, monumentalist spectacle—Khadak doesn’t exhibit full, dynamic fluency in any of them.