The Last Moose of Aoluguya (Han da han, 2013), directed by Gu Tao
(Mandarin and Ewenki with English subtitles)
Gu Tao has spent the past decade documenting the life worlds of the Ewenki people in northeast China, an ethnic minority group of herders and hunters who migrated from Siberia centuries ago to live nomadically in the thick forests of Inner Mongolia. When the Ewenki’s hunting practices were outlawed by the Chinese government in 2003, many were forcibly relocated to government-sponsored settlements, where alcoholism and experiences of alienation took a tremendous toll on the remaining members of the community. In a vivid chronicle of the Ewenki peoples’ struggle for survival amidst China’s rapid social and economic transformations, Gu Tao presents a documentary work of raw realism and imaginative poetic craft. The Last Moose of Aoluguya is an intimate portrait of Weijia, a heavy drinking, soul-searching painter and herder who nostalgically reflects on all that his people have lost. After Weijia’s life spirals into drunken oblivion, his mother posts a personal ad with the hope that he will find a wife and get his act together. A young schoolteacher, Xia, answers the call and invites Weijia to join her on the tropical island of Hainan in the South China Sea, leading Weijia to suddenly embark on an unexpected new journey in life.