Set in and around the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar, Lkhagvadulam Purev-Ochir’s debut feature, City of Wind, is a quintessential tale situating the spiritual conflicts at the juncture between nomadic tradition and global urbanism. At the centrepiece of this dilemma is the young adult protagonist, Ze, who distributes his life between serving as a shaman to his community and being a dutiful student in the district school. Believing in his shamanic prowess and responsibilities, Ze lives in a nearly ascetic imperviousness to the usual excitements concerning his age. However, this character’s invariability breaks when Ze encounters the teenage girl, Maralaa, during a shamanic activity. She questions his spiritual capabilities, which plants a conflict in Ze’s heart and eventually leads to an amatory affair between them.
Purev-Ochir’s storytelling is acutely economic in exploring Ze’s self-reflexive encounter with nightclubs, shopping malls, and sexual intimacy. As the fissures separating ritual duties from his new attachments widen, it affords him the chance to examine his shamanic role from a distance he never had before.
Notes from Ze’s traditional jaw harp collide with a deluge of techno beats, while the visual template oscillates between the serenity of the city’s outskirts and heavy strobe lights. Such devices render the film’s thematic dilemma on an aesthetic scale. However, the film does not create an antagonistic relationship between the oft-iterated polarities of tradition and modernity. Instead, it zeroes in on the transitional liminality. An atmosphere of ambiguity hangs in the air as the camera floats above the city in the film’s extended ending scene – much like a shamanic spirit surveying the changing landscape for a medium to speak through.