Review: Kekexili: Mountain Patrol


Spare and beautiful, director Lu Chuan’s latest manages to encompass both Chinese-Tibetan politics and an endangered species without seeming preachy or pedantic. Based on an actual Beijing journalist’s exposé on the poaching of a Tibetan antelope prized for its softer-than-cashmere hide, Kekexili: Mountain Patrol follows reporter Leng (Zhao Xueying) as he covers the battle between the poachers and a group of civilian volunteers sworn to catch them. Lu, in keeping with the reality-based story, takes a pseudo-documentary approach with his camerawork, but he doesn’t neglect the astonishing views the scenery affords. From a quicksand-laden desert to snow-covered mountains, the beauty of the landscape is matched only by the bleakness of the existence led by both the poachers as well as the mountain patrol. When finally depicted onscreen, the poachers aren’t two-dimensional baddies but simply poverty-stricken Tibetans trying to eke out a living. (A word of warning to animal-lovers: The film’s frankness includes displays of point-blank antelope shootings and the skinning of carcasses.) Likewise, the members of the patrol are hardly beyond reproach; they rough up witnesses and at one point even sell some of their confiscated pelts to provide medical treatment for one of their own. Like a good journalist, Lu stays objective and concentrates on the people behind the story, lending it all the more power.


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