The Season When Velvet Antlers Get Ripe
If you’ve ever wondered whether reindeer antlers bleed if you saw them off, this film will leave you with no doubt. In the remote Altai Mountains of Russia, on the border with China, Mongolia and Kazakhstan, reindeer herders make a living from the trade in “velvet antlers.” South Korean customers in particular swear by the extract made from the antlers, which is supposed to have medicinal properties, including to treat rheumatoid arthritis.
The entire process of “harvesting” the antlers is documented in unadorned and grisly detail, interspersed with commentary from the herders and panoramic footage of the green and rugged mountain landscape.
During cigarette breaks, the herders bemoan their lack of prospects and the deplorable state of Russian politics and the economy, describing their own position as akin to slavery. Meanwhile, it seems to be the visiting Korean dealers who are raking in the profit.