Friday, June 6, 2008

Genghis Khan as a cuddly family man?

In a summer already crowded with superheroes, Russian filmmaker Sergei Bodrov adds a rather unusual figure to the pantheon: Genghis Khan. Bodrov's Khan is not the fearsome Mongol monster of my childhood storybooks, nor the caricature of John Wayne's best-forgotten The Conqueror. Rather, he's an almost cuddly family man, political saviour and fearless warrior. Kind of like a cross between Barack Obama and Batman.

The time is 1172, the place the Mongolian steppe. A tribal leader, or khan, is fixing up his nine-year-old son, Temujin, with one of the daughters of a rival tribe, the Merkits. (The khan is trying to make up for the fact that he kidnapped a Merkit woman for his bride years ago.)

But along the way, the headstrong boy decides that he would rather pick his own future wife and, at a pit stop at another tribe's camp, selects an equally spirited girl named Borte.

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