Mongolia’s Reindeer People Confront Pollution in Poignant Double Music Video

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Directing duo, Sil & Jorik, launch a stunning double music video-short film for artist, Novo Amor. The news follows their recent signing to Park Village for UK representation across music videos, branded content, and commercials. The fascinating films follow Mongolia’s reindeer herders, The Tsaatan, as they struggle to sustain their lifestyle amidst climate change. 

The complete film runs at 12-minutes in total and is split into two music videos, which offer an eye-opening and poignant glimpse into a beautiful and fast disappearing culture. Ulaanbaater in Mongolia is the world’s most polluted capital. An ever-changing climate has devastated the country’s herders and nomads, weakening their animals and threatening an entire culture with extinction (only 40 Tsaatan families remain). As a result, many relocate to the city and burn coal to stay warm.

The first chapter, ‘Sleepless’, follows a miner, who escapes the city to find a shaman to cure his ailing daughter, who has fallen ill from air pollution. After an epic journey across breath-taking, otherworldly landscapes, the family finally finds a new home amongst reindeer herders in the forest. The second chapter, ‘Repeat Until Death’, opens with the heartfelt relationship between the daughter and a reindeer. However, she learns that even this seemingly untouched world is changing. 

Sil & Jorik (Sil van der Woerd and Jorik Dozy), who wrote and directed the films, comment: “After filming inside a sulphur emitting volcano (Terraform) and underwater with a 13m prop whale in the ocean (Birthplace), we convinced Ali (Novo Amor) to film his latest videos in Mongolia, where we wanted to capture the country's abundant beauty and its pressing environmental issues. Filming at temperatures as low as -35 degrees Celsius has been the most challenging thing we have done to date. As directors, we’re always hoping to encounter an artist who is willing to take a risk and to trust us. Ali is this artist. Ali's music is awe-inspiring and working with him has been a true blessing since day one.”

The Dutch directing duo spent 20 days in Mongolia, navigating extreme shoot conditions. They travelled from the city of Ulaanbaatar and the Nalaikh coal mine, to the most Northern region of the country to the Tsaatan tribe. Limited road infrastructure and the Tsaatan tribe’s secluded location meant even their 4x4 jeep struggled to get the crew to across bumpy dirt tracks for days at a time.

An essential part of the story, Ulaanbaatar’s intense pollution, only occurs in winter, when temperatures drop well below -35 degrees Celsius. With strong wind intensifying the cold, the crew could only be outside for a maximum of 15-minutes, even with solid outfits. This extreme weather presented challenges not only physically for the crew and cast, but also for the equipment. The team overcame issues with the drones such as signal loss and malfunctioning landing gear. All of the gear, which was touch-screen-only, had to be gradually acclimatised between internal and external settings, as they would immediately condense.

Commenting on the unique experience, Sil & Jorik say: “The Tsaatan, like all Mongolians, are very kind and very toughened people. They welcomed us in their homes and even gave up their beds. The Tsaatan live an exceptionally tough life. There was no running water in the camp so our Mongolian crew cut big blocks of ice from the nearby lake to drink as teas and soups. Whether it was a runaway deer, an intense snow blizzard, or leaving the camp in a rush due to temperatures about to plummet to about -45 degrees Celsius, we constantly had to adapt our script and schedule. Besides these challenges, there were also plenty of magical moments, such as the arrival of the herd of reindeer each afternoon from the forest, the zero-light pollution at night revealing the milky way, the stunning twilight, the reindeer willing to endlessly lick your hand, and the laughter coming from the tent of our Mongolian crew each night.”

 
Rosaleigh Harvey-Otway