Sunday, November 19, 2006

NEW RELEASES - Kekexili ****


Kekexili: Mountain Patrol begins with the brutal murder of a man. Why was he murdered? The details slowly become clear. He was a volunteer citizen's patrol to protect an endangered species, the Tibetan Antelope - the last of which live on the plains of Tibet. Poachers make a living out of selling their pelts. And so it seems, do the Mountain Patrol themselves: they are so short on money, they often sell pelts they have confiscated from the poachers. The line between poacher and patrol is never so obvious.

A journalist from Beijing comes to Tibet trying to interview a famous Mountain Patroller named Ritai. He arrives to see the funeral of one of the patrollers, the same one we saw murdered by the poachers in the opening scene. He gets to interview Ritai when he tells him if the Patrol gets more publicity in the paper it might get government funding.

We learn of how the Patrol has been searching for the same "boss" poacher for years - most of the people they catch are just smugglers, who they let go. Sometimes, the smugglers even help them like in a scene where they push a truck out of the mud.

Ritai thinks he has a chance to get the boss poacher and obsessively plods up the mountains, leaving behind men in dangerous situations until he has almost none left and there isn't enough fuel to get back or guns to fight.

Kekexili reminded me in many ways of a western. The bleakness of the scenery, the blurred lines between good and evil. The scenes where the Mountain Patrol comes across near a hundred carcasses of the Tibetan Antelope at a time are devastating.

Although the Mountain Patrol doesn't seem sucessful at the end of the movie, there is a note at the end which tells us how fast the popularion of the Tibetan Antelope has recovered from near extinction to now a healthy number after China's government finally started their own Mountain Patrol. The heroes in this movie will not have their names in the History Books, but all who know of what they did and saved will take them as an inspiration.

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