Bottom 20% of all time (see others with this rank)

Festival Year

1998 (click here to see all competition films from this year)


Documentary Competition

Non-Cast Credits

Ellen Bruno


Ellen Bruno returns to Sundance (her Somsaro and Sotya were presented at previous festivals) with an alternating dreamlike and nightmarish vision of young Burmese girls sold by their families as prostitutes in Thailand. The opening image, which recurs throughout the film, is a hazy, colorful vision of a very young girl performing a traditional dance by afire. Her costume, in stunning shades of red, is augmented by her mature makeup. This almost hallucinatory shot is a powerful leitmotif: the young naif, dressed and acting like an older woman, with a sad, vacant expression foreboding an ill-fated future.

The documentary begins with a sweep of Burmese historical, political, and social references. The girls who are led to ‘sin" (their word) hail from a country awash in turmoil. Family land is systematically burnt to the ground by the military government. Women come home from market to find their husbands and sons taken away to war. And baby girls are born with a feeling of debt: "The suffering of one daughter will ease the suffering of many." Hence, it is with an air of resolve that adolescents are bought and sold. They must "provide for this life" as their brothers "provide for the life beyond."

Bruno counterpoints the forthright tales of four prostitutes with mesmerizing photographic images: a woman standing in a doorframe awaiting her fate juxtaposed with farmers diligently cultivating their rice fields, Whether stark or ethereal, the images make a poignant plus for survival, both of the exiled women and the tormented land.


Andrea Alsberg (see other films reviewed by the same reviewer)

Film Takes Pace.