THE LAST MOOSE OF AOLUGUYA

— by Jeff Schultz

This remarkable, if somewhat difficult, documentary — the third of a trilogy — follows a member of China’s Evenki ethnic minority through five years of re-adjustment, re-re-adjustment and re-re-re-adjustment. The Evenki were nomadic, forest-based hunters until forced by the Communist government to settle in dreary, concrete block permanent villages — a soul-destroying move that turned the man at the center of the film, Weijia, into an alcoholic wastrel, but one who is still able, often slurringly, to dissect the destruction of his culture. As their lives are primitive (which is not at all a comment on their intelligence or “humanity”), director Gu Tao has chosen a “primitive” way of telling Weijia’s story: straight shots, long, occasionally trying takes, choppy edits, a camera that at times gets wet or smudged. The story line takes two hard turns almost without explanation: Weijia is suddenly married off and leaves the frozen winters of Inner Mongolia to live on subtropical Hainan Island. He wears “Hawaiian” shirts and sunglasses, strolls the seaside, battles with his wife constantly over wanting to drink — and is miserable. Just as abruptly, he returns to where he came from, where life remains bleak, but hey, it’s home. In essence, Weijia himself is the “last moose”, an endangered species of humanity, remembered here at least in this touching series of impressions. 

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