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Mongolian Ping Pong (2005)

Hurichabilike , Geliban , Hao Ning  |  NR |  DVD

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Special Features

  • Director's notes
  • Director biography
  • Photo gallery

Editorial Reviews


Consistently interesting and pleasing to watch... populated with wonderful actors--most of them under the age of 10--who always seem to be caught in some natural, candid moment... Mongolian Ping Pong takes you far, far away, and it's a beautiful place to be.

A nice change of pace from the noise and cynicism of so many American films aimed at underage audiences. Recalls Laura Ingalls Wilder-- the kind of film that should rightly be seen by children, not just adventurous adults! --The New York Times

Like the best films about children, it puts the camera right among them and sees the world of adults through their eyes. --Newark Star-Ledger

Product Description

A ping pong ball, found floating in a stream, becomes the source of wonderment for three young boys who live in the remote grasslands of Mongolia, a magnificent landscape little changed since the time of Genghis Khan. Bilike, the ball's discoverer, assumes it's a bird's egg. His wizened grandmother proclaims it a magic pearl. Unconvinced, the boys take the ball to the monastery, but even the grasslands' most knowledgeable inhabitants are stumped. When a television show (seen on the region's only set) reveals that the object is the "national ball of China," the determined young scouts decide to embark upon a journey to return the precious talisman to the Chinese capital

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Wonder of Imagination November 13, 2006
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
It is not easy to develop a film from a child's point of it has only been done successfully a few times. (See VILLAGE OF DREAMS - a Japanese movie or PETER PAN). Here, a Mongolian boy who lives in one of the remote spots of the earth discovers a white ping pong ball floating down the river; neither he, nor the elders or even Buddhist priests, understand what it is. It floats. It glows when a flashlight is turned upon it. First, it is understood as a treasure of the river spirits. Next it is thought to be an invaluable glowing pearl. When the boy is told this is THE NATIONAL BALL of China, the boy and two other young friends undertake a wild quest to cross the Gobi Desert to return this treasure to Beijing. Of course, it is a mere ping pong ball, and when the young fellow finally understands the triviality of the ball, the magic is gone. So, which is better: human imagination or reality, a beautiful leap of faith or a scrawny truth?
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
The film centers around family and friends of our main character Bilick, a young boy family living among nomadic hearders of the steppes in remote modern day Mongolia. Tucked deep within the country side, their group has managed to remain largely unafected by the frenzy of modern society. Western gadgets are rare commodities and Bilick is mystified when he discovers a ping pong ball floating down stream; confused by the ball's unique physical properties, he is not sure what he has found, he thinks perhaps a dragon's egg.

It is on this revelation on which the rest of the film comprises; three young boys set out on an adventure to unearth the mysterious origins of what we commonly know as a ping pong ball.

The language spoken in the film is Mongolian, but translates very well into english subtitles; you can tell which charactor is talking, the jokes are still funny, word emphasis and tonality are not completely lost in translation, etc.
This film has little to do with ping pong; more of it's focus and strength arise from the nuances of the culture it so beautifuly exposes within the eco-panorama of the asian steppe. In a world so very far away from out own, in a landscape more pristine than we could ever imagine, it is suprising that we still have so much in common with these charactors.

This film does not easily fit into a certain genre, it delves in, but never completely commits itself to comedy, drama and adventure. Much of the joy that comes from this movie are the thought provocing questions it brings to mind about society (globalization, culture, eco-systems, etc.). Equaly appealing was the beautiful cinematography of the steppes.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Charming slice of Mongolia, but a bit slow August 18, 2009
I had my doubts when I read the synopsis of this film. It sounded like a "The Gods Must Be Crazy" knockoff, with a ping pong ball in Mongolia instead of a Coke bottle in Africa. That's kind of true, but it's only half the story.

I recommend this film for two main reasons. First are the beautiful shots of the plains of Inner Mongolia -- part of China, not Mongolia the independent country. Unending grassy steppes with brooding cloudy skies. Wonderful, and the images alone are probably worth the price of admission.

Second is the glimpse it provides into life on those steppes. The trucks that come by with occasional random goods from afar for trade with the locals -- like a sheep for a coffee set, when the people have no idea what coffee is except that it's a kind of "American tea". The close relationship with horses. The apparent use of some occasional electrical equipment, like flashlights and televisions (I wish they had explained the power source for the latter, but I guess that's OK). The possibility that there is a place where a ping pong ball could inspire wonder.

Story is not the film's strong suit, and it does move slowly. Still, it is a charming tale about the innocence of boyhood. I appreciate having seen it, as I now feel I have a very passing familiarity with a world and a way of life I knew next to nothing about before.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mongolia today December 18, 2007
More than anything else, this is a superior portrait of life in Mongolia today--a culture combining the same yurts (grassland domestic dwellings) used a thousand years ago with the occasional TV and motor scooter. Folks still get around on horseback (the film was shot in 2003-04), and still wear pretty much the same kind of clothes today they did centuries ago--with the odd baseball cap here and there!

Three young boys take off on a journey from somewhere in the wilds of the Mongolian grasslands to attempt to return the "national ball" of China--a ping pong ball one of them finds floating in a stream--to Beijing, its proper home, or so they think. The only way they know it's the "national ball" of China is because they've been able to hear (not see) this pronouncement on a TV set whose reception's confined to sound only, during the broadcast of a national ping pong match in Beijing.

Mongolia is still part of China. Once the proud origin of Genghis Khan--whom natives still honor and pay homage to--it's now the home of people who live simple lives herding sheep and bartering with the occasional "traveling salesman" who drives by in a beat up pick-up truck.

Much has been made of the film being a sort of Mongolian version of The Gods Must Be Crazy, as well as a cinematic work capturing the innocence of childhood. But for my money, it's a great depiction of a part of the world rarely, if ever, seen by Westerners. Lensed by a Chinese filmmaker, Hao Ning, it's a terrific view of life lived so removed from what the typical American is used to, it's worth it just to see the film for this reason.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A movie I watch again and again!
I love this movie. It's beautiful and very slow-paced, like the life of the people it depicts.
Even though I've seen it several times, I find it so relaxing to watch again,... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Carol M. Williams
1.0 out of 5 stars Incredibly boring
I like slice of life foreign films but this one has virtually no redeeming qualities, save, endless views of remote flat grasslands of Mongolia. Read more
Published on October 18, 2008 by Amidonian
3.0 out of 5 stars Not entirely successful, but still a film with many things to enjoy....
Mongolian Ping Pong (Lu Cao Di) is a sweet-natured movie with almost no narrative strength or rhythm. Read more
Published on January 6, 2008 by C. O. DeRiemer
4.0 out of 5 stars "the ball of our nation"
This film about three boys--Bilike, Dawa, and Erguotou --and family life on the endless, windswept Mongolian steppe might be the most feel-good, family-friendly, and culturally... Read more
Published on November 6, 2007 by Daniel B. Clendenin
5.0 out of 5 stars A must see
Terrific film that more than anything else shows the scale of Mongolia, there is something moonlike about it, as if the traveling tinker's truck crossing the grasslands is a rover... Read more
Published on May 19, 2007 by B. Campbell
3.0 out of 5 stars An Art-Like Film Infused With Child-Like Wonder
In the vein of THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY, Chinese director Hao Ning captures a similar theme in MONGOLIAN PING PONG, but instead of a coke bottle this time it's a ping pong ball. Read more
Published on April 11, 2007 by B. Merritt
5.0 out of 5 stars WOW!
A movie about a ball.... what more is there to say. And Grandma did make it a true cinematic experience.
Published on December 29, 2006 by D. OPPENHEIM
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