Film Review: ‘Price of Gold’

Unsentimental portrait of Mongolian gold-diggers leaves emotional stone unturned.

German photojournalist Sven Zellner spent four years living among Mongolian nomads, generating a scrappy portrait of half a dozen renegade gold-diggers who’ve abandoned the region’s traditional herding lifestyle in hopes of exploiting precious metals left behind by corporate mining companies with “Price of Gold.” Wrestling dynamite, a defiant old generator and toxic quantities of mercury, these surly outlaw types talk of “freedom” and claiming what’s rightfully theirs in a system that’s stripped the Gobi Desert’s already-limited resources and reduced them to dangerous work for scant rewards. Docu’s one-week run at Gotham’s Maysles Cinema could attract a few other bookings.

Contrary to the more affecting Nat Geo style seen in “The Story of the Weeping Camel,” Zellner’s approach to observing contempo Mongolian hardship remains curiously unsentimental toward the individuals he witnesses, with only the woman who cooks for this ill-behaved gang leaving much of an impression. Pic suggests the rigorous labor of classic California gold prospectors minus the wild-west excitement, alternating between grim verite observation (where the camera plunges down cramped crawlspaces to capture drilling at close range) and self-aware testimonials, as the subjects mug for the benefit of German auds.

Film Review: 'Price of Gold'

Reviewed online, Sept. 22, 2013. Running time: 85 MIN.

Production:

(Documentary — Germany-Mongolia) A Magic Lantern release of a Nominal Film production, in co-production with Bayerischer Rundfunk, with support from FilmFernsehFonds Bayern. Produced by Maximilian Plettau.

Crew:

Directed by Sven Zellner. Co-director, Chingunjav Borkhuu. Camera (color, HD), Zellner; editors, Zellner, Uisenma Borchu; sound, Benedikt Hoenes.

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