The Sales Girl

In Competition for the Mulberry Award for Best Screenplay

The Sales Girl

Худалдагч охин, Khudaldagch ohin

Mongolia, 2021, 123’, Mongolian – Russian Dialogue
Directed by: JanchivdorjSengedorj 
Screenplay: JanchivdorjSengedorj
Photography (color): Otgondavaa Jigjidsuren
Editing/Special Effects: Munkhbat Shirnen
Production Design: Otgonjargal Danaa
Production Manager: Otgontogos Namsrai
Make-up: Enkh-Orchlon Mendbayar
Music: Dulguun Bayasgalan
Sound Engineer: Batjargal Gankhuyag
Producers: Sengedorj Janchivdorj, Khuslen Bayambaa
Production Companies: (Mongolia) A Nomadia Pictures, Mongolia Film Industry Assn. production.
Cast: Bayartsetseg Bayangerel (Saruul), Enkhtuul Oidovjamts (Katya)


The Sales Girl is one of those films that surprises the viewer by showing an image of a country which is nothing like the idea built up over the decades in the collective imagination. We hardly ever see an urban, middle-class Mongolia populated by young people who look and act like the ones you might find in any European city. Enough with the prairies, the horses, the nomad camps and the infinite horizons that the films shown at international festivals (apart from a few exceptions like Operation Tatar, FEFF 2011) always seem to be full of: in The Sales Girl we’re in a modern-day Ulaanbaatar which looks a lot like Beijing – modern and full of anonymous high-rise buildings and desolate neighbourhoods, and dotted with luxurious villas and apartments, hinting at a dynamic but at the same time unequal society where extremes coexist and you have to hustle if you want to get by. And no one learns to get by better than the film’s young protagonist Saruul, a student whose artistic ambitions aren’t appreciated by her parents, who’d like her to become a nuclear engineer. Shy and withdrawn and with an expression constantly oscillating between sulky and incredulous, Saruul has no friends – a young neighbour of hers with a huge dog and dreams of becoming an actor and moving abroad is the only person she seems to have anything in common with. When a classmate breaks her leg after slipping on a banana peel and asks her to cover for her for a month in the sex shop where she works, Saruul innocently accepts. The job seems straightforward and it’s well paid: it involves selling sex toys of various types, occasionally making home deliveries, and in the evening taking the day’s takings to Katya, the shop’s owner. Katya is a striking character: a rich, flashy, sexy, eccentric middle-aged woman who lives in a luxurious apartment with a cat that Saruul’s employment contract specifies she has to feed. Initially intimidated by this unusual nonconformist who is so unlike her, and who provokes her with questions she can’t answer, Saruul gradually establishes a strange friendship with Katya which helps guide her through the transition from adolescence to adulthood and at the same time helps Katya in the moments of melancholy that shatter her self-image as a strong-willed woman who loves her life. Saruul also has plenty of misadventures in the sex shop as she deals with her customers’ unusual requests, ends up spending a night in the cells with a group of prostitutes and gets harassed by a customer she’s made a home delivery to. Katya provokes, helps and supports her young assistant along the path of emancipation from prejudice, the discovery of her sexuality, and the awareness of her own power. The Sales Girl is a film that on the surface seems designed to highlight the vices lurking in a big city like Ulaanbaatar but is actually a film that tells a very personal story. Light-hearted, provocative and philosophical, it breaks many taboos in an intelligent and amusing way without ever becoming vulgar. Like the two women in the film, the two actresses are totally different from one another – one is a young debutant, the other an experienced stage actress – but there’s a perfect chemistry between them. Screenwriter and director Janchivdorj Sengedorj, who also works in theatre, is one of Mongolia’s best-known filmmakers, and is particularly interested in the representation of contemporary Mongolian youth. The film has deservedly won several international awards, including Best Film at the New York Asian Film Festival. 


Janchivdorj Sengedorj

Janchivdorj Sengedorj (Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, 1976), one of Mongolia’s foremost directors, with a particular interest in portrayals of contemporary youth, has worked in both theater and cinema. Graduated in 1999 with a Bachelor Degree in Film at the “Bers” College of Media and Cinematic Arts, Janchivdorj Sengedorj was director of the Film Institute at the National Youth Theater (2000-2003), director of the Sun Group since 2013 and Board Member of the Mongolian Film Industry Association since 2018. The Sales Girl (2021) is his 15th feature length film.


2010 – Oxygen 
2011 – Bodliin Hulgaich 
2014 – Urgeeleg 
2015 – Bosuul 
2016 – Lovers 
2017 – White Blessing 
2018 – Life 
2019 – I Am the Sun 
2022 – The Sales Girl 
2022 – Restart (anthology)

Maria Barbieri
Film director: Janchivdorj SENGEDORJ
Year: 2022
Running time: 124'
Country: Mongolia
23/04 - 07:30 PM
Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine
23-04-2023 19:30 23-04-2023 21:34Europe/Rome The Sales Girl Far East Film Festival Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da UdineCEC Udine
ONLINE in Italy on Monday, April 24, 2023 from 8:00 pm to 11:59 pm (cest)