The Cave of the Yellow Dog



Unique, mild glimpse into nomadic Mongolian kids' lives.
  • Review Date: April 28, 2011
  • Rated: G
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Release Year: 2005
  • Running Time: 93 minutes

What parents need to know

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

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).

Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

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.

Kids say

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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.

Families can talk 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

Theatrical release date:July 28, 2005
DVD release date:February 13, 2007
Cast:Batchuluun Urjindorj, Nansal Batchuluun
Director:Byambasuren Davaa
Studio:Tartan Video
Run time:93 minutes
MPAA rating:G

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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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 in there and eat her). But the movie gave us a lot of things to talk about! There was a lot that he didn't understand as a 6 year old, so we paused the movie about 10 different times to talk about what was happening. The movie wasn't very clear about their religion, and he kept asking what they were doing and because I didn't know a lot either, I couldn't explain well. It is good for the educational value about how other children and families live. Afterward, I asked him some questions, like what is one cool thing about the way that they live. I asked about one thing he is thankful for having that they don't have, and he said a house that stays and that he doesn't have to play with poop (dung) but has toys. The movie was great for this educational value -- I would recommend it for 7 years old or older as they will understand more, and the movie is not action-packed so requires patience/maturity on the part of kid viewers. I am still very glad that we watched it even though I think he was a tad young!!
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Too much violence


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