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Mongolian Ping Pong (Unrated)

Release Date: April 21st, 2006 (The ImaginAsian Theater) by First Run Features.
The Cast: Hurichabilike, Dawa, Geliban, Yidexinnaribu, Badema, Wurina, Dugema, Jinlaowu, Buhebilike, Jirimu.
Directed by Ning Hao.
In Mongolian with subtitles.

BASIC PREMISE: When a young boy named Bilike (Hurichabilike) finds a ping pong ball and confuses it for the national ball of China, he and his two friends, Dawa (Dawa) and Erguotou (Geliban), set out to Beijing to return it.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Bilike and his family live on a small ranch with grasslands stretching all around them into the distant horizon. Every now-and-then, a man brings a variety of items—such as a television—from the outside world to barter for. Early in the first act, Bilike finds a small plaster ball floating in a river and tries to identify it. Is it a gift from the gods? At least his grandma seems to think so. After briefly listening to a television show, he comes to the conclusion that it’s the national ball of China because ping pong is the national sport. Like with the Coke bottle in The Gods Must Be Crazy, this strange item causes confusion and even a brief fight between Bilike and one of his friends. At first glance, Mongolian Ping Pong maintains a simple plot involving an adventure to give the “national ball” back to Beijing. However, there’s also a subplot regarding Bilike’s older sister who wants to study in school even though her father doesn’t like the idea of her leaving the ranch. Writer/director Ning Hao celebrates nature by including many picturesque long shots of the grassy landscape set against blue skies—or sometimes cloudy skies, which also just as hauntingly beautiful. He not only adds occasional moments of subtle humor to the script, but also a strong sense of realism to every scene which keeps your eyes glued to the screen from start to finish.

SPIRITUAL VALUE: The ping pong ball floating down the river into the grasslands symbolizes the inevitable blend of modern society with a naturalistic, traditional society such as the one that Bilike belongs to. Concurrently, it also represents, or at least it leads to, Bilike discovering the world outside of his own and desiring to know more about it. His decision to go along with his friends through a life-threatening journey shows how naïve he actually is—he has a lot to learn, but at least he’s willing to follow his curiosity. In the final scene, his subtle awakening into reality finally begins to blossom.



IN A NUTSHELL: Breathtaking! Highly engrossing and profound with hauntingly beautiful imagery! A must-see!

RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run)

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