Director-writer-actress Uisenma Borchu’s second film, Black Milk [+], played in the Panorama section of the 70th Berlin Film Festival. Born in Mongolia in 1984, Borchu came to the German Democratic Republic aged four. She studied Documentary Film and Television at the Munich University of Television and Film from 2006-2015. Cineuropa sat down with her in Berlin to talk about Black Milk.
“To me, everything that is black is something that you don’t see; you don’t recognise it”
Cineuropa: What was the seed for Black Milk?
Uisenma Borchu: I was intrigued by one picture I had of my cousin, Gunsmaa Tsogzol, who plays Ossi, where she was standing in the Gobi Desert. And I always asked myself: “Why do I always think about her?” And another question was, “What would I be doing right now if I hadn’t left Mongolia when I was four or five years old?” My mother used to say: “If we hadn’t left the country, you would have been a nomad girl.”
How did leaving affect you?
It was hard being a little child and leaving all of these things behind me, and I believe that we all carry some traces of our experiences around with us. Add to this the feeling of also being very neglected by the Germans in the GDR, and the neo-Nazis who would stand in front of our houses and demonstrate against us. You know, it made me really aware of what I was.
What year did you move to Germany?
I moved to East Germany just before all the upheaval in 1988 and the fall of the Wall. My mother studied in the GDR in the 1970s. She always shifted between the socialist countries, Mongolia and the GDR. And so she started the whole thing. I am, of course, very thankful for this, as I enjoyed being educated in Germany, even though it was a very hard and harsh time at the beginning of the 1990s. It was kind of sad, too.
Can you explain the symbolism of black milk?
Yes, black milk is this idea of empowerment, I guess. To me, everything that is black is something that you don’t see; you don’t recognise it. You think it’s obviously white, the milk that comes out of the breast, but actually, the power you don’t recognise as a man, or especially yourself, as a woman, is something deep in there. For me, it’s black. That’s why I wasn’t reasoning while writing the script – it was just flowing out of my imagination, from my heart.
The image of Mongolia we see is full of earthy colours and concentrates on the everyday. Why this aesthetic?
I wanted to get away from this typical romanticised image, and I wanted to shoot as rough as possible and to be as realistic as possible. I wanted to be direct and intimate with the nomads, and for me, that means just showing them and how they really live. So I didn’t want to have any distance between them and us, and they would feel so very familiar to my crew and me. And that’s why I decided to be very earthy. (The article continues below – Commercial information)
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