The Cave of the Yellow Dog

Runs at Varsity, Fri., Dec. 8–Thurs., Dec. 14. Not rated. 90 minutes.

Director Byambasuren Davaa's follow-up to The Story of the Weeping Camel takes a classic tale of girl meets dog and sets it in the filmmaker's native Mongolia, where it becomes an allegory of social change. The stunning, remote valleys where 6-year-old Nansaa moves around with her sheepherding, yurt-dwelling family are increasingly depopulated, as people abandon the nomadic way of life for jobs in the city. "Only stray dogs are left," a roving hunter remarks. Enter Zochor (Mongolian for "Spot"), a wild puppy Nansaa finds in a cave. At times, the film's Buddhist lessons feel a bit forced, but the naturalistic performances Davaa has coaxed from a real-life Mongolian family and her intimate understanding of their culture and values give this sensitive portrayal its heft. LESLIE CAMHI

 
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