Sundance Reviews – puujee

puujee is a documentary that gives us a glimpse into the life of a six-year-old Mongolian girl, puujee, and her family as they try to survive in the new market economy that has virtually made the old ways of life obsolete.

This type of documentary is difficult to watch. On the one hand, we get an intimate view of life on the open plains of Mongolia. On the other hand, terrible things keep happening to puujee and her family. And unlike the many features that we saw, this one offers no happy ending.

After getting to know puujee and her family, the documentary crew returns a few months later to find that puujee’s mother has died. A horse trampled her. It took ten days to finally get her to a hospital because the ambulance refused to drive out to the family’s home. And after all that, she was denied entry to the hospital because she had no insurance. She died two days later.

During the crew’s second visit, a horrible storm wipes out most of the herd and feedstocks. We’re treated to scenes of animals starving to death because there’s not enough feed.

Finally, the documentary crew return to visit puujee’s family after a four year absence. When they left, puujee was going to school hoping to someday leave the plains of Mongolia to become a translator in Japan. Upon their final return, they learn that the day before her graduation from elementary school, puujee was killed in a traffic accident. She is survived by her grandmother, uncle, and little brother.

Big freaking downer. Well done, well filmed, and the plains of Mongolia are absolutely gorgeous. Not my thing.