The first thing I did after leaving the Orpheum after seeing Mongol, an epic about the early life of Genghis Khan, was to pull out my phone, go to Google Maps and type in "Mongolia." For those of you don't know, the nation is located between Russia to its north and China to its south, while not quite touching Kazakhstan to its west.
What a beautiful film giving us a piece of history in a country that few of us can even locate. After seeing Mongol, which received an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Film this year and was edited by UW-Madison graduate Zach Staenberg, I wondered with all the strife in Central Asia what Mongolia was like today.
In a coincidence, a friend who had recently been in the nation happened to sit next to us at the movie. She commented on her experiences while walking out of the Orpheum on Saturday. "We all rode horses across the steppes," she explained, "they still live in yurts and drink to your health with milk in wooden bowls."
Mongol was an engrossing historical tale with a bonus lesson in culture. That's the best a film can do.