This was another in a series of new Russian films set somewhere deep in the provinces, more precisely in the Russian province of Sakha in the northeast. The region is known for its extremely harsh and cold climate, so it is not surprising that less than a million people live on an area of more than three million square kilometers (the whole of Europe covers a little more than 10 million square kilometers). It is in a rural community of this climatically harsh province that the action of the movie “Scarecrow” takes place, whose screenwriter, producer and director is Dmitrij Davidov, a filmmaker who was born and lives in the capital of that region, Yakutsk. It is one of those typical Eastern European films made with a minimal budget that stands out for its authenticity, but not the expected realism.
This is not surprising because the main character is a village healer and a hermit, a member of the indigenous people there (after all, like all the characters we will meet in this film) whom everyone calls the Scarecrow. Due to the fact that the villagers think that she has some supernatural powers and that she got these abilities thanks to some demons from the taiga, almost everyone hates her in turn. But until the moment when they need her help and the moment when modern medicine fails. Already in the opening scene, we see what the Scarecrow’s modus operandi looks like. She seems to extract diseases and everything hidden in them from sick or injured people, and then washes away all these diseases and evil with copious amounts of vodka. And while she helps everyone, the Scarecrow seems to be her own worst enemy, and from the very beginning it is clear to us that she is often abused herself, who kills loneliness in the vodka she gets after she successfully performs the healing.
The house where she lives is often the target of vandals, the village children chase and harass her, and after a while it will become clear to us that she is trying to find the daughter she gave up for adoption when she was little. Now she has learned that her daughter might be in town and she would like to reconnect with her, but it won’t be that easy. “Pugalo” is a real example of cinematic exoticism in which the exotic, inaccessible and difficult environment plays a big and important role, which is brilliantly emphasized in practically every frame. This small film made it to three nominations in the selection for the best Russian film of the year (best film, direction, and the natural girl who embodied the Scarecrow, Valentina Romanova – Chyskyyray, was nominated for best actress).