Magic Mongolia - A Wild Country at the Heart of Asia
Imagine the perfect backdrop for any adventure writer’s most ambitious travelogue: a vast expanse of wilderness, sparsely inhabited, where nomadic tribes still follow the routes dictated by nature to their ancestors. Imagine also the world’s second-largest landlocked country; squeezed – if you can squeeze 1.5 million km²– between the rapidly transforming superpower of Russia to the North, and the no less rapidly expanding industrial giant China to the South. Mongolia is a rare jewel of a country, with a variety of unique landscapes: the world’s largest steppe, mountain ranges second only to the Himalayas, a thousand rivers, forests, swamps, and – of course – the Gobi Desert.
Every one of these landscapes has its own climate and its own flora and fauna: snow leopards hunt argali sheep high in the mountains and wolverines and lynx roam the taiga alongside reindeer and mountain hares. The steppes are home to hundreds of thousands of Mongolian gazelles, steppe eagles, Houbara bustards, while wild donkeys, camels and the extremely rare Gobi bear inhabit the desert.
Mongolia is criss-crossed by the paths of nomadic herder tribes like the Dukha, who follow their semi-wild reindeer along ancient routes, their life and culture inextricably linked with the untamed nature of their homeland.
Ultra-modern film-making technology combines with traditional nomadic culture, cutting-edge science with age-old wisdom, on an unforgettable journey into the wild heart of Mongolia.
A cooperation with the Department of Protected Area’s Management, Ministry of Environment and Green Development of Mongolia and Khorgo-Terkhi Environmental Education and Sustainable Developments Study Centre, is giving the company an exclusive access to the National Parks in Mongolia.
Part One – Open Country
More than half of Mongolia consists of plains, of steppes and desert landscapes, and these are the subject of the first part of the documentary, "Open Country". The film follows select wild animals as they roam the endless expanses throughout the year. These include the herds of Mongolian gazelles, often consisting of hundreds of thousands of animals, as they attempt to avoid the threats posed by wolves and steppe eagles. "Open Country" also examines the previously unknown lives of the last remaining wild donkeys and Gobi bears in the desert, the courtship rituals of the Houbara bustards, the raising of the young Cinereous vultures and the flocks of Pallas's sandgrouse.
The animal stories are interspersed with tales of the nomads who often follow the same routes as the animals, seeking out pastures and shelter from storms. The documentary accompanies one particular family, observing the way they work, celebrate and fight to survive throughout the year. In open country, nature and culture are not opposites; indeed, they are closely entwined and have a significant influence on each other.
Part Two – The Mountains
The Altai, Khangai and Khan Khentii mountain ranges are coarse, untouched wildernesses, extreme habitats few humans venture into. It is a fascinating world of wildlife: snow leopards hunt argali sheep and bearded vultures clean up the remains of the leopards' feasts, black-billed capercaillies court in the primeval forests, saiga antelopes give birth on the high plateaus, and taimen and Baikal sturgeon spawn in the crystal-clear mountain rivers.
Despite the harsh environment, there is some human habitation: Buddhist monks, for instance, who have built monasteries far from civilisation. In Mongolia, every aspect of human life is influenced by nature, even religion: the trees, mountain peaks, springs and the monasteries themselves are considered holy. They are off limits to hunters and herdsmen, and the sacred status of these places ensures the best possible protection for local nature. The inhabitants of the mountains have also harnessed the power of nature for their own benefit, like the Kazakh nomads who hunt using golden eagles or the Tsaatan people with their tame reindeer. Only those who learn to live with nature and respect its laws are able to survive in the mountains of Mongolia.
Writer and Director: Franz Hafner
Production Management: Lucia Metzbauer
Executive Producer: Heinrich Mayer-Moroni
Commissioning Editor ORF: Franz Fuchs
Executive Producer ORF: Andrew Solomon