Mongolian Ping Pong (2004)—Mongolian
This film about three boys—Bilike, Dawa, and Erguotou—and family life on the endless, windswept Mongolian steppe might be the most feel-good, family-friendly, and culturally exotic movie you could watch this year. The stunning scenery alone makes the film worth watching, as does the window onto their fascinating family life. When Bilike finds a ping pong ball floating in a stream near his tent-home, it becomes both a mysterious talisman to protect and an exotic treasure to envy. No one can tell him what it is. His parents have no idea, nor do the Buddhist monks, while his grandmother says it's a "glowing pearl" from the river spirits. When their father finally gets a TV signal with his antenna of beer cans and metal saucers, they learn from watching ping pong on TV that the artifact is "the ball of our nation." What to do? The fate of the ping pong ball and the disruption it causes among the boys, their friends, and family, form the plot of this movie. It will remind some viewers of The Gods Must Be Crazy about a coke bottle thrown from a plane that is discovered by a bushman in the Kalahari desert, and The Story of the Weeping Camel which also takes place in the Gobi desert. In Mongolian with English subtitles.