Pakistani born Babar Ahmed not only teaches about film at Washington, DC’s George Washington University, he is an accomplished Independent Film Director/Producer in his own right. His last two efforts Genius and Royal Kill were nicely done low budget affairs. After watching his latest effort Amka and The Three Golden Rules, I’d love to see what he could do if he had a real budget, because what he accomplishes with very little resources is much to be admired. Traveling to one of the poorest regions in Mongolia for a four-week shoot, Ahmed is to be commended for the herculean effort it must have taken to bring Amka’s story to life.
Ten-year-old Amka (Ganzorig Telmen) has been forced to support his lazy, drunk elder brother (Enhtuvshin Ganbold) and little sister Maralaa (Dashnyam Maralgua) in The Ger District an extremely poor district near the capital of Mongolia. See, I even learned a little geography watching this.
Due to his poor, tattered clothes the other boys in the village pick on Amka. Things change for him when he first buys a brand new Manchester United T-Shirt from a seemingly kind shop attendant (Batmunkh Hulangoo) who really is using him as her mark. Once he gains friends, he starts thinking the only reason they are his friends is because of the money. He quickly learns the power money can bring and starts craving more and more material things at the expense of his family’s needs.
Ahmed does a nice job with this movie’s theme of the importance of conservation, it’s messages are subtle until Amka has to hide away at his Uncle’s (Hereltogoo Chuluunbaatar ) house in the country where he learns more about his heritage and the value of simple living. His Uncle’s ramblings about conservation are a little preachy and not at all subtle, but you can appreciate the knowledge he’s trying to impart on the young’n.
Considering Ahmed was virtually a one-man show, the project turned out really well. There are a lot of interesting shots where he keeps the camera low to the ground in the beginning to show the world from Amka’s knee high point of view and does a nice job framing the interior shots so that the audience truly gets a since of how small of a house Amka and his family reside in. He also does a nice job on some of the panoramic shots of the Mongolian countryside.
I loved the acting here, especially from the kids. The relationship Amka has with his little sister is quite touching and feels genuine. It’s heartbreaking watching these kids, especially little Maralaa live under such conditions. The movie ends on kind of a polyana note where Amka finally realizes what’s truly important in life and that’s family and friendship.
Amka was a surprising heartfelt journey that was worth the trip.
Final Grade B