Private Project


Tengis, a Mongolian young man who was born and raised in the mainstream Chinese society, learning how to balance his Chinese and Mongolian identities, has been waiting for acceptance from three different universities in Germany over the winter vacation. Unfortunately, rejection is the gift he has been given from all three of them. He chooses to swallow the secret instead of telling the truth. Meanwhile, his parents pressure him to marry his girlfriend, Onon, who has passed the language exam and is ready to move to Germany with him. Haven’t seen each other for two years, the young couple feels familiar and estranged at the same time. Tengis is now caught in the predicament of love, family, and ethnic identity.

The film title "Erge" means swirl, vortex, transmigration, and rotation in Mongolian, while “Tengis”, the name of the protagonist, means sea and ocean. Therefore, the core theme of the film "A Swirl in the Sea" was shown by the connection of these two names, which is a perfect description of the confused, restless, and anxious state of the protagonist.

Although a major part of the film is about the relationship between Tengis and his girlfriend, it focuses more on the individual living state, that is, the protagonist's mentality and reaction in the face of these problems, which reflects the current general living state of the Mongolian youth. The film starts with the protagonist’s vacation, and ends with his acceptance of the state, which can be regarded as a growth for him.

  • Herulun (Khereid Kherlen)
  • Herulun (Khereid Kherlen)
  • Aorilige
  • Suldpurev
    Key Cast
  • Aruna
    Key Cast
  • Chanart
    Key Cast
    "Tengis's father"
  • Tsengel
    Key Cast
    "Onon's father"
  • Yinhua
    Key Cast
    "Onon's mother"
  • Odontuya
    Key Cast
    "Tengis's mother"
  • Project Title (Original Language):
  • Project Type:
    Feature, Short, Student
  • Runtime:
    29 minutes 7 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    May 27, 2021
  • Production Budget:
    270,000 CNY
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
    Mandarin Chinese, Mongolian
  • Shooting Format:
    Digital, Apple ProRes 4444
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
    Yes - Beijing Film Academy
Director Biography - Herulun (Khereid Kherlen)

Meisterschülerin-Universität der Künste Berlin, Art and Media, Experimental Film
Master- Beijing Film Academy, School of Fine art, Film Visual Design
Bachelor- Inner Mongolia University, New Media Art
Director - Beijing Film Academy, 2020 Master of Arts Cooperated Degree Project “ERGE ( Swirl )”
Assistant art director - Film “Looking Up”
Production design - Commercial advertisement of “Double 11”
Production design - Short film “War Correspondent”
Production design - Short film “NH4+”
Production design - Short film “Dumplings”
Production design - Short film “Miss”

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

To face or to hide away his true feelings, to obey or to rebel against his father, to preserve or to discard his ethnic identity - the protagonist of “ERGE”, Tengis, struggles in love, school, and family, trying to balance his Chinese and Mongolian identities. The struggles that Tengis faces in the film are similar to what I have been facing as I was born and brought up in Inner Mongolia. Living in two different cultures, I have contemplated on the issue of ethnic identity for years, thus creating this film to provide my insights.

"ERGE" is composed of a 48-second opening animation and a 28-minute feature film. It aims to explore the living condition of young generation in Inner Mongolia, who are experiencing the loss of culture, language, and identity. The story is based on an Inner Mongolian family which lives in modern city, in contrast to the usual grassland setting in most Mongolian movies, which is my silent resistance to the stereotypes like "Mongolian movies are prairie films". Urban families in Mongolia have long been overlooked and absent from the narrative, yet they probably experience more confusion and anxiety about ethnic identity than other groups. When modernity and traditional culture collide, the young generation of Inner Mongolian cities is stuck in-between, torn apart by mixed emotions of restlessness, hesitation, and guilt. They feel guilty about abandoning their ethnic identity, hoping to revitalize their culture, yet inevitably drawn towards the developed mainstream Chinese society. The title “ERGE” means swirl, vortex, transmigration, and rotation in Mongolian, which is a perfect summary of the current situation of ethnic minorities in China, struggled and confused, not only the Mongolian, but also Tibetan, Uygur, etc.

The decline of traditional Mongolian culture seems to be an unstoppable fate. Just as the fake yurt background of the photo-shooting at the end implies, or the stone reinforced concrete yurt where the party is hold, or the Chinese- Mongolian mixed language that characters speak in the film, the traditional culture exists as an illusion or a decoration rather than everyday reality. Under such circumstance, one question continues to haunt me: how should Mongolians free themselves from their identity crisis? I tried to answer this question with my film.

The opening animation serves as a vivid depiction of the theme of “ERGE”, in which a boy searches for the camel bell in the sand storm. The camel bell symbolizes identity and a sense of belonging, so the boy searching for the bell is a metaphor for ethnic minorities searching for their lost identity. However, at the end, the camel bell rings, reminding us as well as the protagonist that our identity, our root has never really been “lost”. It is born with us and will always be there, in whatever form. There is no need to search for the “bell” or worry about losing it, for it never leaves. All we have to do is to keep the “bell” - our root - in our hearts and get on with our life, just as the protagonist does.

In terms of narrative and visual style, I mainly draw inspiration from two sources - Italian Neo-realism and Mongolian meticulous paintings. Neo-realism is characterized by its direct and honest depiction of everyday life, which serves perfectly for the purpose of the film - to show the real living conditions and emotions of the urban Mongolians. The film is filled with depiction of details and a lot of close-up shots, which helps to present the changes of the protagonist’s inner feelings. Moreover, I chose not to conform to the stereotypes of Mongolian films and present “spectacles” of idyllic prairie; instead, characters are shown in realistic settings in actual locations like parks, restaurants, airports, etc. Also, characters in the film speak in mixed languages - Mongolian and Mandarin - which may sound strange to audience who are used to typical Mongolian films in which people speak pure Mongolian. However, in fact, speaking in two mixed languages is very common in Inner Mongolia nowadays, it’s becoming a special dialect and the film is merely showing the reality. Like in one sentence there are not only Mongolian nouns but also Chinese verbs, although a lot of Inner Mongolian don’t like it, but they can’t deny the fact that Sinicization is happening on themselves and they are losing their culture and language. Through depicting the everyday scenes of an ordinary Mongolian family with a rigorous documentary style, I let the audience into their world, to feel their emotions and resonate with them.

In the process of exploring the visual style, I borrowed elements from Mongolian meticulous paintings which I have been interested in for years. The influence of Mongolian meticulous paintings is evident in both the opening animation and the general color palette of the film. For the animation, I used granular brush strokes to indicate the harsh weather and the chaotic storm, and loose brush strokes to draw the outline of characters and camels. In addition, Mongolian paintings have also given me enlightenment in the symbolic expression of space in the entire work. Typical Mongolian paintings like to use solid colors such as blue, red and white with large color blocks, while the overall background is mostly filled with yellow. In order to highlight the ethnic characteristics, the whole film is created in warm colors, with high-saturation colors such as white, blue and red added in the picture, which is very similar to the color palette of Mongolian paintings. In this way, “ERGE” manages to retain traditional ethnic characteristics while depicting urban life.

There may never be a solution to the problem of ethnic identity, and the “swirl” will probably never stop, but hopefully we could all hear the camel bell ringing from afar.