The Rocket (2013) is Australian documentarian Kim Mordaunt’s first full-length feature. The director previously documented Laos life and its minefields in Bomb Harvest (2007). The idea for the film came to him because he wanted to tell the story of the people and children of Laos, a country that was confronted with a secret war lead by the CIA that lasted for nine years, 24 hours a day. “Just because the country doesn’t have a film industry, that does not mean that their real story shouldn’t be told and heard,” said Mordaunt in a “Making of” interview.
I haven’t seen Bomb Harvest, but what I appreciated about The Rocket was that although the movie shows a clear-eyed observation and understanding of the country’s dark history and cultural backdrop, it is not sentimental about poverty and hardship, and it evades any sense of offensive exoticism. The film’s beating heart comes from choosing to focus on the coming-of-age story of a young boy (who is superstitiously believed to bring bad luck), depicting his indefatigable optimistism, resilience and the genuine curiosity of youth as opposed to the mere shock of a child facing unimaginable personal loss and being put in a dangerous situation. The little boy, Ahlo, is played by Sitthiphon Disamoe – an authentically raw, unstudied performance. Sitthiphon was a street kid – which is also accountable for the neo-realistic feel of the movie, one of its strongest points – who, after a long and difficult casting, had struck the director with his strong sense of self and survival and of never giving up – qualities he took with him on screen. “This film is like my real life,” confessed Boonsri Yindee, who played Taitok in the movie. Gripping and heartwarming and thoroughly authentic.
photo: Red Lamp Films, Curious Film, Ecoventure