“There is nothing harder than people getting used to each other.”
Harvest Moon is the latest International Feature submission from Mongolia and it’s the best film we’ve seen from this country. As the least dense country in the entire world, the film is set right in the middle of a gorgeous rural landscape where people are almost nowhere to be seen except for a few yurts here and there in the distance.
Tulgaa lives in Ulaanbaatar as a head chef for a five star restaurant. One day he receives a phone call from someone in his childhood village telling him that his father, Ambaa, is extremely sick. Reluctant to go back to his childhood home, he eventually decides to take the long journey back to his hometown.
After a bus and motorcycle ride, Tulgaa is reunited with his father. They enjoy their last few moments together reminiscing about the past. As Tulgaa has been away for so long, Ambaa tells his son that he “didn’t realize that nothing could keep you from leaving.” And soon after he passes away.
As Ambaa was responsible for the hay harvest for the school, the school director hopes that Tulgaa can take over for the season. Tulgaa agrees to honour his remaining commitments to his community. Soon after beginning his work he meets a local boy named Tuntuulei, who laughs at the “city boy” trying to work the fields. But despite getting off on the wrong foot, the two find a common ground and their delicate bond will forever alter their lives.
Director Amarsaikhan Baljinnyam has created an impressive, beautiful and touching film exploring fatherhood. And the bonds that are created due to absent fathers. It’s a simple, but achingly tender film about new relationships being formed in the most unexpected places. And lives forever changed as a result. The film is a tribute to anyone who takes a role as a father. As Tulgaa and Tuntuulei work the fields during the day and spend nights hovering around the fireplace eating and talking, the most beautiful moments are spent watching their bond grow as the clear moon shines over the harvest. It’s a different way of life. It’s an extraordinary way of life. And this incredible special film will melt one’s heart when it’s all over.