Review of the Film 'Khadak'

Mongolia, nestled between twin superpowers China and Russia, is home to the world’s last truly nomadic population of herders, living seasonally across the vast Gobi Desert. I’m a passionate scholar of all things Mongolian, having lived there for nearly a year some years back, and this gave birth to my fascination with Indigenous peoples and desert-dwellers – hence my work with Bedouin here in the Negev, and research upon the impact of humans on the environment.

If you are also interested in foreign-language films that explore culture and environmental issues, ‘Khadak’, a 1996 Belgian-made feature film, offers valuable insight, and reveals not only how Mongol nomads live, but also how it can destroy them once they are uprooted from their natural habitat.

This fascinating, beautifully shot film also explores the potential of shamanism: Bagil, a young nomad, starts having epileptic fits, which often signify he has shamanic power (noted scholar, Mircea Eliade, defines a shaman as one who is a “manipulator of the sacred,” or a “great master of ecstasy”). Bagil denies this, and initially refuses to accept training from a local elder shamaness. He and his grandparents are soon forced from their grazing land on the Government pretext of an animal virus sweeping across the country.

They are moved to a depressing town of concrete tower blocks, and Bagil is employed at the local mine. Then his luck changes again…

‘Khadak’, which means blessing scarf (an oft proferred ritual, deriving from shamanic & Tibetan Buddhist sources), is presented in a sequences of slow frames in vivid colour, highlighting powerful landscapes populated by people whose whole sense of life comes from their connection to the land. In contrast to this deep reverence, an extraordinary slow pan shot of an open-cast mine, halfway through the film, spells out human despoilation of land, and humans being out of sync with nature (sadly now a common feature of modern Mongolia).

‘Khadak’ is a significant film dealing with crucial environmental and socio-spiritual themes of today, and I recomend it highly to Green prophet readers. The film’s website is

This, and many other great movies and eco-themed documentaries are available to rent in Jerusalem, Haifa and Tel Aviv from branches of The Third Ear.

Other movie reviews here: ‘Into the Wild’,

‘Garbage Warrior’,

‘Grizzly Man’

Oh, and Happy Earth Day!

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3 thoughts on “Review of the Film 'Khadak'”

  1. Sue Lindley says:

    This was a very moving picture, but of a pace that I found difficult to watch. I made a sincere effort to calm my frazeled nerves when listening to the errie music. Yes, I know it was their culture, not mine, but it would take me some time to get used to it. I did watch it all the way through, and dearly wanted to “read the book”. I’m not a literalist; I like thoughtful films. This was difficult for me to follow and understand. In limiting dialog(I assume for translations)it appeared that they also limited giving necessary information. I did watch all of it, and may again with a meal beforehand and perhaps a gentle tea.It gives an aching portrayal of life there, which was truly lost when coal,militarism, high rises and civilization came to their lives.

  2. From the US says:

    I unfortunately live in the US as an Asian American. I would give just about everything but my freedom to live outside of this wretched sespool of a country. My passions lie in delivering equal opportunity to the oppressed and saving the environment from our destruction. This movie is a hybridization of both. It truly speaks to the beauty of this planet and it highlights the beauty of the Mongolian culture. Mongolia is one beautiful country. If you can stand the cold, I highly recommend you go. I would live there if I could. I have long been a scientist (I study breast cancer in a biochem lab) but I often wish I were an anthropologist. The Mongolian culture is full of beauty and mystery and i wish I had the opportunity to experience more of it. Fortunately, movies like Khadak give me this opportunity. I highly recommend you watch it.

  3. james says:

    Stop Press: I just saw that ‘Khadak’ is being shown at the Jerusalem Cinemateque on saturday 14th may at 2.00 …. well worth seeing!

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