The Cave of the Yellow Dog

Movie review by
Lisa A. Goldstein, Common Sense Media
The Cave of the Yellow Dog Movie Poster Image
Unique, mild glimpse into nomadic Mongolian kids' lives.
  • G
  • 2005
  • 93 minutes

Parents say

age 7+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

Kids can learn a lot about how people live in other parts of the world. This is a great introduction to a discussion about other cultures.

Positive Messages

This film exposes kids to a lifestyle very different from their own and is a great way to expand their understanding of the world. It also teaches that families have universal struggles and joys regardless of their life circumstances. Themes of tradition vs. modern life emerge.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The young girl goes against her father's instructions and this causes problems for other family members. Kids have more responsibilities than most Western children.

Violence & Scariness

The realities of rural life are shown: close-up of a dead sheep, skinning sheep, vultures feeding on a carcass in distance. Brief scene of siblings arguing. Talk about vultures and wolves being dangerous. Children get lost/left a few times. The scariest moment is when the family realizes a young boy has been left behind. As the dad races back to get him, the boy wanders near vultures and water.

Sexy Stuff

Non-sexual nudity of a child. The youngest child's bare butt is shown. There's a brief frontal nudity shot, which is when the audience may realize he's in fact a boy, not a girl (he wears pigtails).

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this award-winning movie featuring a real-life Mongolian family includes a couple of suspenseful, perilous scenes when a child is lost or left alone. Viewers also see animal carcasses, vultures feeding, a sheep being skinned, and kids playing with dung. Be prepared to confront gender assumptions -- the little boy looks like a girl with his hair in pigtails and it comes as a big surprise when his sex is revealed by a brief non-sexual nude shot. Overall, the movie is a unique peek into an unfamiliar culture that could expand kids' understanding of the world.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 6-year-old Written bymnewburn July 24, 2012

Educational about how other children and families live

I watched this with my 6 year old. There was one part -- when the little girl finds a dog in the cave -- that he got scared (he thought a wolf was going to be i... Continue reading

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What's the story?

Nansal returns from boarding school to live with her nomadic Mongolian family for the summer only to discover that wolves are threatening her family's herd. She finds a dog in a cave and names him Zochor (Spot), but her dad disapproves. He's afraid that because wolves live in caves, they'll track down the dog and make the family's problems worse. Nansal is told to get rid of him, but can't bring herself to do so. If anything, he's a distraction from her responsibilities. She has to decide whether to obey her parents or follow her heart as the family prepares to leave for another camp.

Is it any good?

Director Byambasuren Davaa lived with the Batchuluuns, a real nomadic family in Mongolia, and let things unfold naturally to create this thoughtful and beautiful film. We get a no-frills view, with stunning cinematography, of everyday life, which is threatened by the encroaching city and its lure for families like the Batchuluuns. From the scene of two siblings fighting after they wake up one morning to the dismantling of their yurt, the family going about their daily life is fascinating to watch, especially because the rosy-cheeked children rely on their imaginations for play and have more physical and adult responsibilities than their peers might elsewhere.

Between the harsh realities of nomadic life and the scary moments of children being separated from their parents, this isn't always an easy movie for kids to watch. And the movie has a slow feel to it, so some kids might get a bit restless. There are some heavy topics about modern life and its effect on cultures that will raise questions for older kids, but ultimately the universal themes of hope, family, and value of human life will resonate with all.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about violence in films. What's seen in this movie is real and many times, necessary. How does this compare with violence or gore in other films?

  • What can we learn about the kids in this movie? How are their lives different and similar to yours? How did they use their creativity? Could you go without TV for a week? How would you entertain yourself?

  • What do you think will happen to Nansal and her family? What is happening to their lifestyle? What effect does the media play in how some cultures are changing?

Movie details

For kids who love interesting stories

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