Cast: Gunsmaa Tsogzol, Uisenma Borchu
* Limited tickets available.
Official Selection, 2020 Berlin International Film Festival
A Mongolian nomad on the barren Gobi Desert slits a clean hole in a goat belly, reaches deep inside, and extinguishes life with his fist. It’s an act of killing that is violent and violating, sexual and somehow utterly humane. It’s also one remarkable scene in BLACK MILK, and the stew of contradictions Mongolian writer, director, and star Uisenma Borchu fingers and mounts in her second film. Part sexual dreamstate, part cagey family reckoning, BLACK MILK dares to look at the wilderness of displaced selfhood, amidst a spare Mongolian desert scored only by neverending wind.
Drawing from the personal, Borchu plays German-Mongolian Wessi, who abandons a shitty and possessive German boyfriend to answer a deep-seated urge to visit her wary sister Ossi, far away in a Mongolian yurt. A series of encounters draw Wessi deeper into unknown territory that entangles the two sisters–from a taboo attraction to a mysterious older man to a sexual assault that Wessi subverts with a mix of curse and fantasy. These are messy and deeply interior ruptures, which Borchu echoes with little filmic slips, missing frames that periodically snap our attention like the softest slap in the face.
Wessi might be sexually radical by any standard, and the independent Ossi lives a traditional Mongolian life. And yet, BLACK MILK doesn’t bother with a boring binary of traditional vs. liberated. Rather, the two women are estranged possibilities, staring at each other with curiosity and critique, a windscratched mirror with the perennial diasporic question: What if I had stayed? What if I had left? hanging in the air.