So many stray dogs were living in Ulaanbaatar in the late 1990s that the government had them shot en masse. Baasar is one of them. He dies on the day a great solar eclipse cast a mystical shadow over Mongolia. And so begins State of Dogs, a magical, poetic travelogue with elements of the supernatural.
Baasar’s body lies lifeless on the cold steppes, but now his soul is free to go where it pleases. Before he returns as a human, explains the voiceover, the soul of the dog will visit all the places he once lived. The viewer joins his journey through the seasons with a family of herders, later arriving in the smoke of a polluted city.
Mongolian folklore calmly pervades the journey, with a cast including a heavily pregnant woman and a legendary, sun-devouring dragon. Music, mythology, social commentary, and philosophical reflections all come together in this enchanting film. State of Dogs won awards at several festivals in 1998, including the Grand Prix at the Swiss documentary festival Visions du Réel.