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Gobi Women's Song - Documentary Film, Mongolian Nomadic Women

Region: Central Asia, Mongolia
Author: Sas Carey, Mongolian Medicine Project - NOMADICARE
Consortium Member: Virtual Foundation Director (ECOLOGIA)
Status: Completed - Final Report Budget: $59257 Collected: $59257 Needs: $0
Result: An educational film about nomadic women's health and lifestyle is documenting a way of life that is disappearing as modern life impinges and provides nomads with an alternative to their traditional dependence on the environment.
Donors: Anonymous, Vermont [2005 & 2006]; Vermont Arts Council [February 2005]; Anonymous, New York State [May 2005]; National Endowment for the Arts; Mongolian American Cultural Association; Sustainable Future Fund of the Vermont Community Foundation [March 2006]
Comment: This 73 minute film is being made available to Mongolians and to others who need to know about the sustainable life of one of the earth’s most remarkable people. Screenings can be arranged by contacting Sas Carey of Nomadicare.


An educational film about nomadic women’s health and lifestyle documents a way of life that is disappearing as terrain is threatened by long-term drought, and people and animals endangered by disease. This film will be made available to Mongolians and to others who need to know about the sustainable life of one of the earth’s most remarkable people. Photo: Dulma, a nomadic herder in the Gobi Desert, with her one-day old daughter Altjin. Sas Carey is at right.


Since 2001, Sas Carey has traveled in Mongolia to shoot documentary film footage of health, spirit and life, especially of women in two different regions. In the summer of 2004, she returned to Manlai Sum, South Gobi to film a herder family which she has been following since the birth of their child in 2002. She also traveled to Huvsgul to film a shaman ceremony. Now with years of unique, original still and motion film footage, and audio recordings, she is creating a film for widespread distribution, in English and in Mongolian.

Questions from the Virtual Foundation Proposal Review Committee, and answers from the project organizer, Sas Carey (2004):

Question: How accessible will a video be to the populations you will be filming? Will the film then be used as a fundraiser? What audience will be targeted? What are the people being filmed being told about follow-up?
Answer "The funding of this grant will be used to film in Mongolia in summer 2004. The next step, to edit this film over the winter will need additional funding for time and expertise. When finished, the film will be offered through the Central Asian listserv, in college film catalogs, agencies, libraries, and PBS stations. I have film contacts in California, Minnesota, NYC and Vermont who will guide me when I get to the distribution part of the project. It will be used as a fundraiser, with the target population being the health and human services sectors.
"In Mongolia, I have already shown some pieces of the footage on the Manlai Soum local TV station. The rural people were excited to see themselves. I gave the community a copy of the video. I also took my laptop, external hard drive extra batteries, and camera to the film’s star Dulma's grouping of gers (yurts) and showed her community the footage I had taken the year before along with the footage we took while visiting. I did the same with the Reindeer Herders—showed them what I had taken. When it is finished, Mongol TV will show the film and it will be available for Mongolian schools, libraries and agencies working in Mongolia. Photo: Dulma nursing Altjin

Question: What are the people being filmed being told about follow-up?
Answer: "They know that they will be shown the film. They have already seen benefits from it because the doctor interviewed in 2001 said her dream was a laboratory and we took her one the next year and the whole county has access to better health care. They trust me to honor them with the film, and know it will be used in ways to help them and other Mongolians." Background on Sas Carey and NOMADICARE (formerly, the Mongolian Medicine Project)

The goal of NOMADICARE is to bring health options across borders and cultural lines and to educate the different peoples about each other in a deeply honest way. Its founder, Sas Carey of Vermont, began strengthening her work as a nurse and spiritual healer to learn concepts of balance for Western health care. Since her first trip to Mongolia in 1994, she has been fascinated with its people and culture, and has developed and implemented projects in her field of expertise. All NOMADICARE projects come from roots in meditation and deep listening to Mongolians.

While in Mongolia to learn about energy and balance and their application to healing in traditional medicine, Sas Carey discovered that hospitals there need what the West has —not million dollar machines, but basic laboratories. She developed a project which has already provided laboratories, supplies and training to four hospitals in rural areas. While visiting rural areas in Mongolia, she discovered that Mongolian Medicine had practically disappeared. This culturally appropriate, and sustainable method can be used effectively, so she is promoting scholarships for rural doctors, to enable them to combine traditional and western methods in their public health practice. Most recently, while assessing the health of Reindeer Herders (Tsaatan or Dukha people) in northern Mongolia, she understood their need for vitamins to prevent scurvy and blindness. Finally, she has been filming her experiences for 10 years, to share with Mongolians so they will not forget the disappearing nomad life, and for the rest of us who need to know about the sustainable life of some of Earth’s most remarkable people.

Gobi Women Song Budget Summary, February 1, 2006

I. Production--Filming in Mongolia* 2001-2004 (COMPLETED)
Four summers @ $5,649 (filming, crew, food, travel) $22,596
Individual donors $22,596
II. Post-Production 1: February to August 2005 (COMPLETED)
Editing Expenses
Editing Production Suite 5847
Supplies and dues 278
Consultant 910
Logging translation from Mongolian 833
Subtitles and translations 4000
Editing footage 900 hours X $18.50 15750
Ecologia's Virtual Foundation (fiscal agent)* 1010
Subtotal expenses $29,528
Individual donors; VCA, MACA** $25,528
In-kind translations and sub-titles 4,000
Subtotal income $29,528
III. Post-Production 2: September 2005-February 2006 (COMPLETED)
Professional editor (for final cut) 4100
Subtitles and final translation 500
Sound design 4000
Music 7 songs X $300 2100
Subtotal expenses$10,700
Individual donors 4533
In-kind music 2100
In-kind translation 500
MACA (pending) 3567
Subtotal income $10,700
UPDATE 2007:
73 minute film available for viewing.

*Detailed budget breakdown for the travels and filming is in Appendix, below.

**Ecologia Virtual Foundation's Mission: "Building global connections to create civil society and support social and environmental sustainability". Ecologia gives web presence for the film project and donations through Ecologia are tax-deductible.

*** Vermont Council on the Arts/National Endowment for the Arts; Mongolian American Cultural Association

Appendix: Detailed Budget Breakdown, Category I. Filming in Mongolia 2001-2004
Annual Expenses
United States to Ulaanbaatar, round trip plane ticket, $1782
Chinese Visa $140
Medical insurance $110
Beijing room & board, 2 days in transit $180
Food in Ulaanbaatar $250
Rent in Ulaanbaatar 6 weeks, phone, electricity $370
Travel within Mongolia (plane, jeep, horse) $900
Interpreter (10 days X $25) $250
Camera crew $25 X 10 days $250
Film and developing stills $350
Microphones and reflector $350
Batteries $32
Dulma, contribution for documentation $50
Tapes - Mini DV $135
Total, each summer's expenses$5,649
Four summers @ $5,649 $22,596