A death foretold
We were commissioned to develop and design the campaign for the Torelló Mountain Film Festival 2022. The central theme for this year’s festival was Mongolia.
Because of climate change, the nomadic shepherds who travel through the Mongolian steppe are no longer able to forecast the weather. As their way of life no longer seems safe to them, many decide to move to the city where they will live in the suburbs in poverty, breathe some of the most polluted air in the world and see how their children are not allowed to integrate into the education system.
In Mongolia many things are on the verge of disappearing, just like here and in the rest of the world. While theirs is a death foretold, the last blade of grass, the last stream of crystal clear water, the last gesture of hospitality, the last tale learned from our grandparents, the last wild horse and the last blast of clean air have decided to write their own epitaphs.
Nomadism has been the way of life of half the population of Mongolia and it exists to guarantee the survival of the group. When it gets too cold in one place, they have to move to the place where they know the weather will be warmer, or when it stops raining in one place, they have to move to that place where they know there will be fresh water and, therefore, fresh grass for their herd.
These families have known where they had to go thanks to oral tradition. Until now, the elders passed on the knowledge to the youngsters and everything worked. But today, this foresight is no longer reliable.
Due to climate change, it is becoming increasingly difficult for shepherds to predict the weather on the steppe and, therefore, many of these trips to places where they think they will be better off, often end in tragedy. Along the way, they encounter unforeseen extreme weather phenomena, such as DZUD, which can kill half the herd. And if the herd weakens, their own survival falters. To the point of sacrificing the horse, which is their most sacred animal. Or to give up and set out on the journey, not to another part of the steppe, but straight to the capital, because their way of life does not seem safe anymore. Once in the capital of Ulan Bator, they find that the system does not know how, or rather, does not want to take them in. And it is then that these families are forces to live on the margins in poverty, to breathe some of the most polluting air in the world because of the coal in suspension and to see how they do not know how to integrate their children into the education system.
What worries us is not only that many things in Mongolia are about to disappear, but that things as important as fresh water, clean air, fresh grass, oral tradition, hospitality and wild animals are also about to disappear here and in the rest of the world.
To create this year’s campaign, we have tried to put on the glasses of the shamanic tradition, still present in some parts of Mongolia, to observe this reality from an animist point of view, understanding that everything has a soul and is therefore as important as people. Also inspired by the book ‘When I sing, mountains dance’ by Irene Solà, in which the author plays at telling us a story from different non-human voices, we have created a series of tombstones on which these characters express themselves in the form of an epitaph when they realise that their death is foretold. What would the last blade of grass write on its gravestone as it sees its end approaching? And the last stream of crystal clear water? And the last gesture of hospitality or the last tale learned from our grandparents? And the last wild horse or the last blast of clean air?
We would like to thank Gerard Canals for the magic of writing each of the epitaphs that you can read on the tombstones, Irene Solà for creating such an inspiring work and for connecting me to him and the festival team for allowing year after year to continue exploring new formal, conceptual and narrative territories. Long may it continue.