Sometimes we don't know the wealth of what we had until it is gone. Director Fei Xie shows us the beauty and simplicity of life that seems to defy modernization in this story about a boy who leaves behind the women who love him to venture into the city and, through his own actions, loses them both.
You might have missed this foreign film when it was released in 1997 in the US and it wasn't widely reviewed, going to video in 1998. Based on a novel by Zhang Chengzhi, the actual Mongolian title translates into "black horse" and comes from a Mongolian folksong about such an animal.
The main character is a motherless boy whose father (Gangbater) hasn't even taken the time to give him a proper name. Now transferred to the city, he brings the boy (Guanghulag) to an old woman (Dalarsurong), known for taking in strays — orphaned animals and humans. She already has an orphaned girl, Somiya (Bayirtcya), staying with her but accepts this boy, naming him Bayinbulag. The children grow up together as children of the grasslands.
The black horse in question comes, as the grandmother says, like a gift from the gods. Newly born and deserted by his mother, the young colt is left alone during a fierce snow storm, but the grandmother brings the foal into their house, warms it, and feeds it. The children decide to name it for the old folksong, Ganganhei. Horse-riding as well as schooling is for the boys only so Bayinbulag is educated while Somiya is not.
Bayinbulag learns to ride Ganganhei and life goes on until one day he is summoned by his father to go to the city to study for what he thinks will be only eight months. Before he leaves, the grandmother suggests that he marry Somiya yet he is too shy to declare his affection.