The Rocket

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Bang Fai

“Don’t be surprised if this one’s in the foreign-language Oscar conversation next year.” — Steven Zeitchik, LA Times

Director: Kim Mordaunt
Year: 2013
Running time: 96 mins
Censor Rating: M - nudity
Genres: For kids

Screenplay: Kim Mordaunt
Producer: Sylvia Wilczynski
Executive producers: Bridget Ikin, Michael Wrenn, Triphet Rookachat
Photography: Andrew Commis
Editor: Nick Meyers
Production designer: Pete Baxter
Costume designer: Woranun Pueakpan
Sound: Sam Petty, Brooke Trezise
Music: Caitlin Yeo
In Laotian with English subtitles

With: Sitthiphon Disamoe (Ahlo), Loungnam Kaosainam (Kia), Thep Phongam (Purple), Bunsri Yindi (Taitok), Sumrit Warin (Toma), Alice Keohavong (Mali)

Festivals: Berlin, Tribeca 2013
Best Film (Generation Kplus), Berlin International Film Festival 2013
Best Narrative Feature, Best Actor and Audience Award, Tribeca Film Festival 2013

In rural Laos, young Ahlo (irrepressible Sitthiphon Disamoe) is born under a curse, or so says his grandmother, and you’d be a fool to argue when the implacable old bat gives you the evil eye. Tragic events suggest she’s right but Ahlo is determined to turn his luck around. Forcibly relocated with his family from their village by Australian hydro-electricity developers, Ahlo teams up with another misfit, Kia, who lives with her James Brown-loving uncle Purple, only to find himself more firmly ostracised than ever. A rocket festival, in which contestants launch homemade missiles from precariously makeshift bamboo platforms, provides Ahlo with his chance to star, or get very badly burned trying.

Australian filmmaker Kim Mordaunt previously directed a documentary in Laos about children who sell unexploded bombs for scrap metal. This new film, superbly shot by New Zealander Andrew Commis, feels thoroughly informed by familiarity with the landscape and culture. And the rocket festival is no stunt: it’s the real thing.

“The visually stunning location provides an enthralling and evocative backdrop for Kim Mordaunt’s engaging film… The film works quite profoundly as a thoughtful look at a country ravaged by war as well as being on the brink of change. The climactic rocket launch scenes are impressively staged, with the stunning shot of his rocket spiralling upwards evocative and beautifully shot as it explodes behind the clouds.” — Mark Adams, Screendaily

“Endearing, gripping and heartwarming, The Rocket recently won the World Narrative Competition prize at Tribeca, and it’s easy to see why.” — Rodrigo Perez, Indiewire