July 13, 1988 Hohhote: Early morning look at the props. They offer me the cardboard props from a Ghengis Khan TV series. At the risk of not finding anything else, I refuse. Authentic old costumes and jewelry can only be had through personal contact to families way out in the grasslands. I hope for the cooperation of local people. The prayer banns are printed on horrible synthetics. I insist upon thin muslin-like material. The property master is a former Lamaist monk and understands immediately what I mean.
Interview with Ulrike Ottinger by Patricia Wiedenhöft
1. First of all, how did your new film come by its title? Johanna d'Arc of Mongolia is the name of a legend which the film makes audible and visible in various ways. I like to begin with great, emotionally-charged names in order to bring the seemingly familiar into new and surprising contexts. Usually, it isn't the things that are completely and utterly foreign, bur rather those with which we seem to have some connection, that can unleash an incredible sense of strangeness when suddenly transported to another context.
When I first saw Ulrike Ottinger's film Johanne d'Arc of Mongolia, at a film festival in 1990, I was totally captivated by its hilarious plot and sumptuous visual impact. It is an epic tale of East meets West as a group of European women traveling on the Trans-Siberian Railroad are kidnapped by a band of Mongolian tribeswomen led by an imperious and beautiful Princess.